Scholar shares soul of French-Canadian music 

By SHAWN MACOMBER, Telegraph Correspondent 
Published: Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005 

Lucie Therrien's lecture, "French
-Canadian Music and its Cross-Cultures" 
When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 9.
Where: Hunt Memorial Library Building, 6 Main St., Library Hill, Nashua. 
Admission: Free.
Information: Call 594-3661. Or, for more information on Lucie Therrien,

Traveling music is like a traveling people. In a new home it clings to some aspects while others fall away and, oftentimes without even realizing it, becomes a completely different creature altogether in a complex web of pollination and cross-pollination. Much of this happens below the cultural radar, with even the human musical pollination bees unaware of their own rippling effect.
Enter self-proclaimed "citizen of the world" Lucie Therrien, a Portsmouth chanteuse and scholar who plans to shed some light on the trajectory and impact of French-Canadian music Sunday at the Hunt Memorial Library Building with a talk titled, "French-Canadian Music and its Cross-Cultures."
"People here, I believe, want to reconnect with their past, their culture," Therrien said. "There is so little chance to reconnect to our roots these days and the warm, fuzzy feelings that come with doing so. It's become my mission to sing and educate. It's become my passion. My lecture will be an extension of that. I might even throw in a couple a cappella numbers."
Therrien has written two small tomes, outgrowths of her University of New Hampshire Master's thesis, on her beloved French music - "The Biculturalism of French-Canadian Music (1534-1759), Indian/French" and "The Biculturalism of Quebec Music (1789-1800), French English" - in addition to her international touring schedule.
Therrien also serves on the American and Canadian French Cultural Exchange Commission, a post she was recently appointed to by New Hampshire Cultural Affairs Commissioner Van McLeod. Therrien sings in many languages, and has performed or participated in cultural exchanges in Quebec, Vietnam, Martinique, North Africa and Cuba. In her spare time, Therrien teaches music and French to students at her Studio Do-Re-Mi in Portsmouth.
"We're very excited Lucie is coming," said event coordinator Elaine Griffiths. "We hope, with the area's large French population, to get a good crowd. I think people are going to learn quite a bit and be entertained as well."
The history of French-Canadian music, especially since the British came to Canada in the mid-1700s, has been rich and varied, Therrien said.
"I'll talk about the history of the music right up until today, following the winding paths of the music's migration," she said. "For example, traditional Acadian music migrated to Louisiana and became Cajun music. Quebec music migrated to the New England mills, and was retained by Franco-Americans."
While Franco-Americans retained Quebec's music, they also sort of froze it in time, while music being made in Quebec continued to evolve.
"Quebec is a modern civilization, and its music has, therefore, developed into something more modern," Therrien explained. "Franco-Americans have stuck more closely to tradition because they are nostalgic, and traditional music reminds them of home. You could call Franco-Americans the keepers of the traditional music.
"I learned those songs as a schoolgirl in Quebec," she continued. "These were French folk songs we sang at recess or that my papa taught me. But they are not songs you will hear on the radio driving through Quebec."
Both worldliness and music run freely in Therrien's blood. Her father was French-Canadian and her mother was English-Canadian. Therrien spoke two languages at home and school. She remembers early in life telling her mother she wanted to be a musician.
"My papa was a fiddler," Therrien said. "On Sundays, our days of leisure and pleasure, we would often jam and make music together. I also took classical music classes in school. Growing up, I listened to both the French and English music my parents were fans of. So I had music coming at me from all sides, in all languages, and I just loved it."
Therrien's talk will also touch on the musical culture and happenings in France. But when asked to explain the major differences between French and American music, Therrien demurred.
"The difference between French music and any other music comes from the soul," She said. "It is incomparable. It has its own soul. Since I was a child I had a strong love for this music."
According to the multilingual Therrien, learning new languages can also help spur a broader understanding of cultures, musical and otherwise.
"Language is tied into music," she said. "Both allow you to have a bigger world. Every time you can speak another language, you enter someone else's world. You're no longer on the outside looking in, you connect with their life. Music, like language, is a vocabulary that can be used to connect with and understand different cultures."
Perhaps it should come as no surprise that a scholar who has spent many years exploring the nooks and crannies of the French music traditions objects to being slapped with the French-Canadian label.
"People tend to call us all French-Canadians," she said. "We are not. We're not living in Canada. We're a subculture of those great traditions. I think that is what satisfying about exploring this music. People are always in awe of all the connections when they start to dig in to the history. My talk, I hope, will be a good starting point."
For Therrien, that exploration should not end at the water's edge of French music.
"My world is very large," Therrien said. "I'm really an international person. I need to be constantly exposed to new ideas and places almost to survive, really. It's my water. I need that international stimulus."

Back to Contents