If you haven’t yet experienced the Quebec group Genticorum, you’re missing out on some of the most vibrant and entertaining traditional music around. This multi-talented trio performs a mix of songs and tunes, from the French-Canadian tradition as well as their own compositions. They are anchored by the amiable seated figure of Pascal Gemme (fiddle) who also provides distinctive foot percussion. He’s flanked by Yann Falquet (guitar, jew’s harp) and the extravagantly named Alexandre de Grosbois Garand (flute, fiddle, bass). In addition to their top-class musicianship, all three are superb singers, each taking the lead in singing various songs as well as blending together in impressive harmonies, such as on the title track of the latest album, Nagez Rameurs.
This record takes as its theme the legendary French Canadian voyageurs of the 18th and 19th Century, hardy men who were employed by firms like the Hudson’s Bay Company to paddle large canoes into the wild interior of this vast country, transporting trading goods in and furs back out, bound for the markets of the East Coast and Europe. Music was an important part of the voyageurs’ daily life and they often sang while paddling. Genticorum performed a number of pieces from the new CD, including the lilting Valse des Poeles, Reel Circulaire (written by their friend Daniel Boucher) and Les Menteries (“the lies”). In the case of the latter, as with most of the other songs, we were treated to a hilarious introduction explaining the meaning behind the French lyrics. These witty little anecdotes are a real feature of every Genticorum show (certainly all the ones I’ve ever been to!) and the lads had the audience almost crying with laughter.
While the main Bury Met auditorium was only around one-third full on this cold Tuesday at the end of January, the crowd of 80 or so was appreciative, responding warmly to both music and tales, and even attempting to sing along when coached in a snippet of Quebecois “mouth music”. Further highlights of the two 45 minute sets included the aforementioned Nagez Rameurs, a stately a capella masterpiece, the sprightly twin fiddles of Le Pommeau, and the cautionary tale of Les Cousinages, with its driving rhythm and almost klezmer flavour.
This was the penultimate night of this short UK tour, with the trio heading to Glasgow to play Celtic Connections the next day, but as regular visitors to these shores they are well worth looking out for. Vive la musique quebecoise!