homepage logo

Feet, Fiddle and Song from French Canadian Band Genticorum

By Staff | Aug 30, 2013

Start fall off with an enjoyable evening concert featuring the French Canadian trio Genticorum, who weave precise and intricate fiddle and flute work, gorgeous vocal harmonies, energetic foot percussion and guitar and bass accompaniment into a big and jubilant musical feast on Friday, Sept. 6, at 8 p.m. at Shepherd University’s Reynolds Hall.

The group features Pascal Gemme on fiddle, vocals and the foot percussion which provides the heartbeat for the music and drives their pure traditional Quebecois sound. Inspired to take up the fiddle by the playing of his grandfather, he developed a solid technique and acquired a wide repertoire through the years. He has played with and has been inspired by many great Quebecois singers and fiddlers. Pascal has been searching for seldom heard songs and melodies and interpreting his own compositions with a unique, unmistakable style. Pascal writes most of the arrangements for the band and has worked as an arranger and composer for television, radio and a world class Canadian dance company.

Alexandre de Grosbois-Garand began his career on the Montreal musical scene as a funk-latin-jazz composer/arranger and bass player. He studied jazz arrangement and pop electric bass but his growing passion for folk music gave him a taste for the wooden flute, which he started to play in 1997. Since then, Alexandre has devoted much time and energy creating a distinctive Quebec flute style, which can be heard in the music of Genticorum.

Yann Falquet is an active and creative acoustic guitar player on the Quebecois music scene. He has explored accompaniment in many styles of music (including Breton, Scandinavian, Irish and others) and completed a Bachelors degree in Jazz. His involvement in traditional music scene brought Yann to perform on numerous recordings, and to regularly tour throughout Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia. He also toured for three years with the award winning celtic/world group The McDades. Yann has also had the opportunity to teach at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance in Limerick, at the Goderich Celtic College as well as at the Alasdair Fraser’s Fiddle Train and Sierra Fiddle Camp.

Like jesters in the court, Genticorum approaches their music with fun and lightness. Like Quebecois magicians, they pull the crookedest of tunes out of their tall black hat. Like old world storytellers, they spin tales of mischief and a few of heartbreak and lament. In short, this three-man band fills your ears with the best of it all, winding through the hallowed halls of traditional Quebecois musicianship with a clever, spunky approach to rhythm, harmony, and arrangement. Though earnest and well-studied, they don’t take themselves too seriously. And with the unique combination of sounds and storytelling, and a band name that comes from a nonsensical word, neither can listeners.

Nonsense words in fact serve a very important function in the Quebecois folk music tradition, explains Alex de Grosbois-Garand, the trio’s multifaceted flutist / bassist / fiddler / vocalist. The band’s name comes from a song about a young girl who has a crush on the man working for her father. As the story goes, she delivers a pigeon meat pie to the young man. Poetically, and using lots of nonsense words, the song describes how the two have so much fun eating the pie that it shakes the rocks under the sea-a euphemism for more adult content. “It’s a poetic way of saying things that would otherwise be too… explicit,” says Alex. “You really have to know the tradition to understand the meaning.” By weaving tales with nonsense words and insinuation-a literary predecessor to the modern-day bleep-it’s appropriate for all audiences. Until, Pascal remembers, upon hearing the song later in life, one says, “Oh, I get it!”

Genticorum are a power trio in the best sense of the word. Each member of the group is very versatile-Pascal on fiddle, foot stomping, and vocals, Alex on wooden flute, bass, fiddle and vocals, and rounding out the group, Yann Falquet on guitar, jaw harp, and vocals. With the different combinations of instruments, one might wonder if it’s the same group from one song to the next. Their unique blend of timbres, and surprising vocal harmonies, has given them an edge of popularity not only in their hometown, but in festivals and venues worldwide.

The band does entertain and entrance, and are particularly interested in finding the funny side of life through their songs. “Les Culottes de V’lour” from the new album tells the story of a young wife who is having an affair while her sailor husband is out at sea. The husband returns earlier than expected, while the new lover is in her bed. The sailor knocks on the door, and the lover jumps naked into a dark corner of the room. The husband, both tired and happy to see his wife, gets undressed and gets in bed with her. The wife, now in a difficult position, tells her husband that she is very ill and asks him to go immediately to the potion maker. The nave husband goes, and when he’s about to pay he realizes that he is wearing the lover’s velvet pants, filled with gold coins and a gold watch. He goes to the tavern, drinks himself silly, and in the morning asks the town bell-ringer to make an announcement regarding the owner of the pants, so that he can properly return them. Of course the wife comes with all kinds of excuses, but in the end the husband uses the French cliche ‘you had me wear the horns’ (you cheated on me), and claims the pants and the gold as his own as repentance.

Come on out and experience the magic of Quebec with one of its finest bands.

The concert will be held in Shepherd University’s Reynolds Hall, on the corner of King and German streets on Friday, Sept. 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 for seniors, $12 for SMaD members and $8 for children and full-time students. Shepherd University students get in free with their Ramber ID. For more information see the web page at smad.us or call Joanie Blanton at (304) 263-2531 or email at upperpotomac@gmail.com for more details. Advance tickets will be available at O’Hurley’s General Store.