Travel with us to Trois-Rivières, a town in southern Québec. It’s late December during le temps des Fêtes, the time of celebration, and smoke is rising from the chimneys. The timber business is thriving and the Hudson’s Bay Company is paying good money for beaver pelts. A group of young men is preparing to leave home seeking profit and adventure—to be voyageurs. The only way into the wild Canadian woods is on the rivers and lakes, so the men will paddle a huge canoe to trade European goods for pelts, singing as they go.
The voyageurs’ songs are part of a lively tradition in Québec. The region’s early immigrants brought with them the music, dances, and legends of their native France. Over time, a distinct French Canadian culture began to emerge, influenced by Native American traditions and immigrants from Britain and Ireland.
This Québécois winter celebration includes a selection of traditional and new music, blending old French tradition and New World ingenuity with a modern flair. Our story begins in Trois-Rivières one evening in December and ends exactly one year later. You’ll hear carols, wild dancing, and music from the hearths of Québec. And be prepared for a deal with the devil and a ride in a flying canoe!
About this Recording
This recording is based on a Revels stage production that originated in 2004 with Patrick Swanson, artistic director, and George Emlen, music director, at Revels, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was subsequently staged by Revels companies in Houston, Texas; Oakland, California; Tacoma, Washington; Hanover, New Hampshire; and, of course, in Washington, D.C.
Washington Revels celebrates traditional music, dance, and drama, presenting events both large and small, from informal pub sings to fully staged performances. Our largest annual event is The Christmas Revels®, performed nine times for over 10,000 people who sing along and dance in the aisles. In 2008, we explored Québécois culture with the help of three guests from Québec: dancer Pierre Chartrand, fiddler Éric Favreau, and accordionist Stéphane Landry. Two years later, we reunited to record this album.
This recording was made possible through a generous donation from William L. Ritchie, Jr., longtime Washington Revels supporter, performer, voluntee and community member.
Photographs from the 2008 Christmas Revels by Sheppard Ferguson