"Energy, variety, authenticity and world-class talent, recorded in sparkling clarity —the perfect companion for winter in Quebec...or anywhere else!"

—Mary Cliff, Traditions, WAMU

Notes About the Music

by Stephen Winick and Elizabeth Fulford

1. Vive la Canadienne (Long live the Canadian woman) [trad., arr. Fritz]
Folk songs that French settlers brought from Europe became part of a large body of songs associated with the voyageurs. The songs gave a rhythm for paddling and marching and helped the men pass the long hours. This paddling song has a traditional French melody, here arranged for brass quintet by Robert Birch.

Washington Revels Brass Quintet

2. J’ai trop grand peur des loups (I’m too afraid of wolves) [trad., arr. Fulford Miller & Fritz]
This lively voyageur song describes an encounter between a traveler and three horsemen. They discuss where the horsemen will spend the night—at the baker’s house, where there is good bread to eat. The song is a chanson en laisse (a song on a leash), in which the last line of each verse becomes the first line of the next. As sometimes happens in folk music, the refrain, “You always amuse me, I’ll never leave our house, I’m too afraid of wolves,” seems unrelated to the verses, but it introduces the popular theme of wolves in French Canadian folklore. The song was collected by Edward Ermatinger, a fur trader whose Voyageur Songs (ca. 1830) was the first set of French songs published in the New World presenting words and music transcribed from oral tradition.

Washington Revels Chorus & Brass Quintet

3. The Founding of Trois-Rivières
Trois-Rivières, or Three Rivers, was the second permanent settlement in Québec. Founded in 1634, it was a center for fur trading.

Katrina Van Duyn, storyteller             Greg Lewis, Susan Lewis, Elizabeth Spilsbury, speakers

4. Ah! Si mon moine voulait danser (If only my monk would dance!) [trad., arr. Emlen]
In this popular French Canadian party song, a woman (in this case, many women!) tries to entice a monk—mon moine—to dance, offering such inducements as a cap and a sash. Canadian children sing this song while spinning tops, because mon moine can also be translated as “my top.” The singers are accompanied by the traditional Québécois form of percussion—podorythmie, or rhythmic foot-tapping.

Jennifer Greene, Cheryl Lane, Helen Fields, Elizabeth Spilsbury, Guenevere Alexandra Spilsbury, Jane Bloodworth & Susan Lewis, singers
Éric Favreau, fiddle Pierre Chartrand, podorythmie

5. Quadrille [trad.]
The quadrille, a very popular dance in the Québec City area, arrived in the province around 1819. It is normally made up of five or six parts, with a different tune for each. This version comes from Lorretteville, near Québec City, and is very condensed here—a complete quadrille can last half an hour! The traditional tunes played here are “Gigue de Rouyn,” “Quadrille Verret,” and “Galope de Québec.”

Pierre Chartrand, caller & os (bones) John Devine, guitar
Éric Favreau, fiddle Stéphane Landry, accordion

6. Canot d’écorce (Birch-bark canoe) [trad., arr. Emlen]
A young man at a logging camp dreams of an enchanted canoe that will fly him home to his sweetheart. The arrangement of this traditional tune is by George Emlen.

Stephen Winick, singer        John Devine, guitar        Diana Lewis-Chun, recorder
Washington Revels Children

7. Le moulignier amoureux (The amorous sailor) [trad.]
In this song, a young girl is sent to sea by her family. She soon encounters a sailor who makes advances, but she convinces him that the birds, who speak both French and Latin, will tell her father if the sailor tries to kiss her. Performed in traditional call-and-response style, the song’s refrain employs a vocal technique known as turlutter, a form of “mouth music”—nonsense syllables sung when there are no instruments to play. Learned from a field recording by Robert Bouthillier of singer Alvina Saint-Pierre-Brideau, this song uses the unusual dialect word moulignier for “sailor.”

Riki Schneyer & Stephen Winick, singers
Pierre Chartrand, Éric Favreau, and Stéphane Landry, podorythmie

8. Auprès de ma blonde (Next to my sweetheart) [trad., arr. Fritz]
This song expresses the joy of reunited husbands and wives. Also known as “The Prisoner in Holland,” its lyrics are thought to have been written by a Frenchman who was held captive in Holland after a Dutch raid on France in 1762.

Flawn Williams & Terry Winslow, singers
Washington Revels Chorus & Brass Quintet

9. Rinçons-nous la dalle (Let’s rinse our throats) [trad., arr. Emlen]
A popular French Canadian drinking song. The arrangement here is by George Emlen.

Washington Revels Chorus

10. Tourdion [Attaignant]
“When I drink light red wine, friend, everything goes round and round,” begins this French drinking song and popular dance tune written by Pierre Attaignant in 1530.

Washington Revels Chorus        Pierre Chartrand, drum

11. J’ai tant dansé (I’ve danced so much) [trad., arr. Birch]
In this traditional folk song, a shepherdess dances so much that she eventually wears a hole in her shoe—requiring the services of a handsome cobbler. The arrangement here for brass quintet is by Robert Birch.

Washington Revels Brass Quintet

12. C’est la belle Françoise (The lovely Françoise) [trad.]
Sung in Canada as early as 1650 by French soldiers who fought the Iroquois, this folk song describes a soldier’s farewell to his fiancée. The version we sing here is a lively sea chantey from Québec’s Gaspésie region, a peninsula south of the Saint Lawrence River.

Stephen Winick, singer               Washington Revels Men

13. Outaouais Medley [Ouellet, Ouellet/Messervier Jr., trad.]
This suite of clog, jig, and reel, first developed for step-dancing competitions in Outaouais—a region of western Québec near Canada’s capital, Ottawa—has since spread to other parts of Québec. The tunes are “Clog fantôme” (Ghost clog) by Raynald Ouellet, “Gigue de la compétition” (Competition jig) by Raynald Ouellet and Marcel Messervier Jr., and the traditional “Reel des queues de lapin” (Rabbit tail reel).

Pierre Chartrand, dancer             John Devine, guitar
Éric Favreau, fiddle                      Stéphane Landry, accordion

14. Les parties de Grégoire (Gregory’s parties) [trad.]
In this traditional French Canadian “cumulative song,” along the lines of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the singers recite the dishes served at a series of sumptuous New Year’s feasts—legs of mutton, cabbage soup, rabbits, and more. This is among the many songs collected by legendary Québécois folk singer Jean-Paul Guimond.

Will Wurzel, singer                       Washington Revels Men            Pierre Chartrand, podorythmie & os

15. En roulant ma boule (While rolling my ball) [trad., arr. Birch]
Originally a 15th-century French minstrel song, this piece made its way to the Americas and became a popular voyageur song throughout the woods of Québec. This arrangement for brass quintet is by Robert Birch.

Washington Revels Brass Quintet

16. Blanche comme la neige (White as snow) [trad.]
This song has one of the most common French ballad themes. Unsavory suitors trick and capture a young girl who uses subterfuge to, as she puts it, “preserve her honor.” In some versions, she tricks the suitors right back and escapes. In others, she dies. In this version, she is captured by three sea captains, feigns death for three days, and is ultimately rescued by her father and mother.

Riki Schneyer, singer

17. To the Voyageurs Departing [Swanson]
A poem by Patrick Swanson, Artistic Director of Revels, Inc.

Katrina Van Duyn, storyteller

18. Voici la nuit (Now comes the night) [trad., arr. Fulford Miller]
Sung by the townspeople as a blessing for our voyageurs, this beautiful song comes from a larger work for male chorus and piano, “Les soirées de Québec,” by Ernest Gagnon, a 19th-century Canadian composer and collector of folk songs. This arrangement for mixed chorus and brass quintet is by Elizabeth Fulford Miller.

Washington Revels Chorus & Brass Quintet

19. Dans les prisons de Nantes (In the prisons of Nantes) [trad., arr. Fulford Miller]
Nantes is the most important city in the northwestern provinces of France, the region many of Québec’s early settlers came from. Also known as “La fille du geôlier” (The jailer’s daughter), this is one of the best-known 17th-century French songs that survives in Québec. It is a fine example of a complainte, or narrative folk song—what English-speaking folklorists call a ballad. The lyrics tell of a jailer’s daughter who loves a prisoner in Nantes. She tells him that he is soon to be executed, then helps him escape. He dives into the river Loire. When he reaches dry land, he sings that if he ever returns to Nantes, he will marry her.

Stephen Winick, Scott Matheson, Milan Pavich, Lars Peterson, Jennifer Greene, and Riki Schneyer, singers
John Devine, guitar                Stéphane Landry, accordion            Éric Favreau, fiddle
Washington Revels Chorus

20. Jesous Ahatonhia (Jesus, he is born) [trad.]
Also known as “The Huron Carol,” this may be the oldest Canadian Christmas carol. It was written in 1643 by the Jesuit missionary Jean de Brébeuf in Wendat, a language spoken by some of the native people of Western Ontario. It tells the Nativity story using Huron mystical imagery along with Christian symbols. Mother and child are in a birch-bark lodge and are visited by three chieftains who bring pelts. The French tune comes from the 15th century and is called “Une jeune pucelle” (A young maiden).

Riki Schneyer, singer               Diana Lewis-Chun, flute                 Elizabeth Fulford Miller, drum

21. Cry of the Silver Birch [trad., arr. Fritz]
This musical quodlibet (combination of two or more tunes) joins together the Canadian folk melodies “Cry of the Wild” and “Land of the Silver Birch.” These two traditional canoe songs speak of the beauty of the river and the strength of the people who rely on it for food, transportation, and other necessities. This arrangement for brass quintet is by Ben Fritz.

Washington Revels Brass Quintet

22. Le sommeil de l’enfant Jésus (The sleep of the infant Jesus) [trad., arr. Fulford Miller]
The haunting melody and words of this traditional French Christmas carol depict the infant child sleeping in a manger among the animals while heavenly angels hover overhead. The arrangement for women’s voices is by Elizabeth Fulford Miller.

Washington Revels Women

23. Noël est arrivé (Christmas has arrived) [trad.]
This carol from Provence tells the story of shepherds who are on their way to Bethlehem to see the newborn child. In this rustic scene, a shepherd complains, “My leg hurts, so saddle up the horse.”

Washington Revels Children        Jamie Sandel, fiddle               Pierre Chartrand, drum

24. Un voyageur errant (A wandering voyageur) [trad., arr. Fulford Miller]
Our voyageurs find themselves alone and far, far away from their loved ones, and sing of missing their homeland. The words to this song (originally “Un Canadien errant”) were written in 1842 by Antoine Gérin-Lajoie. The song collector Ernest Gagnon identified the tune as “J’ai fait une maîtresse” (I’ve got a mistress) in his Chansons populaires du Canada (1865). This arrangement for men’s voices is by Elizabeth Fulford Miller.

Stephen Winick, singer                 Washington Revels Men

25. La Chasse-galerie (The flying canoe) [trad.]
In the French Chasse-galerie legend, which has parallels throughout Europe, Lord Gallery loves hunting so much that he refuses to go to Mass, and so is condemned to hunt forever through the night sky, chased by howling wolves. After the legend reached Canada, it was combined with an Indian tale about a flying canoe. Thus, the Québécois legend tells of voyageurs who have made a pact with the Devil to fly a canoe through the night and visit their families for New Year’s Eve. Our voyageurs’ enchanted flight home is accompanied by the traditional songs “Au bord de la fontaine” (At the edge of the fountain), “Envoyons d’l’avant, nos gens!” (Forward, men!), and “V’là le bon vent” (Here’s a good wind). The traditional instrumental tune is “La chicaneuse” (The scolding wife).

Riki Schneyer & Stephen Winick, singers             Katrina Van Duyn, storyteller
Pierre Chartrand, podorythmie & os                    John Devine, guitar
Éric Favreau, fiddle                                              Stéphane Landry, accordion            
Washington Revels Chorus

26. Le réveillon du jour de l’an (The New Year’s party) [trad.]
In Québec, as in many places, Christmas Day used to be primarily a religious holiday. Nightlong parties in the home—veillées—were reserved for occasions like New Year’s Eve. This song tells of a New Year’s party at which the narrator courts the kitchen-maid “in a little dark corner” and has a little too much to drink. The traditional instrumental tune is “Le reel des nouveaux mariés” (The newlyweds’ reel).

Riki Schneyer, singer                  Pierre Chartrand, dancer               Washington Revels Chorus
Éric Favreau, fiddle                     Stéphane Landry, accordion          John Devine, guitar

27. Brandy [trad.]
One of the most popular traditional dances in Québec, the brandy is known for its lively stepping and 3/2 meter. This version comes from the Saguenay area, where the step-dancing tradition is well preserved.

Pierre Chartrand, dancer            John Devine, guitar
Éric Favreau, fiddle                     Stéphane Landry, accordion

28. Les plaisirs de la table (The pleasures of the table) [trad.]
This traditional French Canadian folk song speaks of fellowship, good health, joy, and peace.

Stephen Winick, singer

29. Oublions l’an passé (Let’s forget the old year) [trad.]
Forget all the petty squabbles of the past and raise your glasses together in joyful song: “Let’s forget the old year; the new year is here!” Presented in traditional call-and-response style, “Oublions l’an passé” was first recorded by the family singing group La Famille Larin and later made popular by the French Canadian group La Bottine Souriante.

Riki Schneyer, singer                  Pierre Chartrand, dancer               Washington Revels Chorus
Éric Favreau, fiddle                     Stéphane Landry, accordion          John Devine, guitar

30. A Blessing for the New Year [trad.]
Je vous souhaite une bonne et heureuse année, une bonne santé, et le paradis à la fin de vos jours. “I wish you a fortunate and happy New Year, good health, and eternal bliss at the end of your days.”

Katrina Van Duyn, storyteller

31. Cantique de Jean Racine [Gabriel Fauré, arr. Fritz]
This beautiful choral work was written in 1865 by French composer Gabriel Fauré, then 19 years old and a student in Paris. He set to music a hymn text by 17th-century poet Jean Racine. Originally written for organ and four-part chorus, the piece won Fauré a composition prize. The arrangement here for brass quintet is by Ben Fritz.

Washington Revels Chorus & Brass Quintet