Noted French-Canadian folk musician and dancer Benoit Bourque will be joined by both family and friends in a pair of concerts taking place on Friday, May 18 and Sunday, May 20 on the Bates College campus in Lewiston.
A member of the distinguished Quebecois band La Bottine Souriante (a multi-time winner of the Juno Award, Canada’s version of the Emmy), Bourque has plied his skills as a singer, instrumentalist and step dancer with many other popular Canadian ensembles over the past 30-plus years, most recently with Le Vent du Nord and Matapat.
Bourque, who has been lauded widely in the press for his “contagious” energy, charisma and versatility, switches effortlessly from accordion to guitar to bones as he regales his audiences with chansons à repondre and other songs derived from Quebec’s rich archive of traditional ballads both humorous and heart-rending.
He punctuates his performances with spirited bouts of jigging, demonstrating what one journalist described as “a remarkable light-footedness, which belies his imposing physique: a 6-foot-5-inch frame which sports size-13 shoes at one end and a never-ending smile on the other.”
Making his first U.S. appearance with his dad is Benoit’s son, Antoine, age 22, who is pursuing his bachelors degree in music at the University of Montreal. Although he played piano for many years, his major instrument is now accordion. Along with the collection of traditional dance tunes and folk songs which he has learned from his father and other “roots” musicians in his native Quebec, Antoine is also studying the classical music repertoire for piano-accordion with accordion master Georges Camitsis at the university.
On Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m. at Bates’ Olin Arts Center Concert Hall (75 Russell Street), Benoit and Antoine will share the stage with Frank Ferrel and Ed Pearlman, two of America’s leading practitioners of Irish and Scottish music in a program titled “Franco-Celtic Connections.”
Ferrel will be joined for this event by pianist Rob Choiniere of Madison. Accompanying Ed Pearlman will be his son Neil Pearlman. Ed and Neil also perform with their family band, the Highland Soles, whose other members—renowned Highland and Cape Breton step dancer Laura Scott, fiddler Lilly Pearlman, and pennywhistler and dancer Jesse Pearlman—have been invited to lend their talents as well to the May 18 program.
Following the concert, there will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions while the musicians share their perspectives on the “Franco-Celtic connection.”
On Sunday, May 20 at 3 p.m. at Bates College’s Schaeffer Theatre (300 College Street), Benoit and Antoine will be the headliners in a program inspired by the old-time kitchen parties which were a common occurrence among Franco-American families in Lewiston until a couple of generations ago.
Comprising the rest of the “family” for this event will be a number of local Franco-American singers, dancers and instrumentalists of all ages, including well known fiddlers Greg and Jessie Boardman, as well as some of Greg’s fiddle students. Popular Maine storyteller Michael Parent, a Lewiston native, will act as host.
Admission to either of the above events is $10, with a reduced price of $5 for children/students. The concerts are sponsored by the Bates Department of French and Francophone Studies, Department of Theater and Dance, and Freewill Folk Society.
These events are part of a three-day community residency organized by the Maine Folque Co-op with additional support from the Franco-American Collection at USM’s Lewiston-Auburn College, the Lewiston Public Library, the Lewiston chapter of the Association Canado-Amèricaine/Royal Arcanum, and the Farwell School PTA.
Other activities—all with a French-Canadian theme—include a song workshop, a family dance, a step dance workshop and dance party for teens and young adults, and a day of folk dance workshops for schoolchildren. (See highlighted listings below.)
More information on all of these events as well as advance reservations for the two concerts are available via the website www.mainefolqueco-op.com or by calling 782-0386.
Schedule for Benoit Bourque
Friday, May 18. In Concert: Benoit Bourque & Son with Frank Ferrel and Ed Pearlman. Award-winning French Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer/stepdancer Benoit Bourque and his accordionist/singer son Antoine are joined by Maine master fiddlers Frank Ferrel and Ed Pearlman in a “Franco-Celtic Connections” concert. 8 p.m. at the Olin Arts Center Concert Hall at Bates College (75 Russell Street in Lewiston). Admission: $10, $5 for children/students. FMI: 782-0386 or www.mainefolqueco-op.com.
Saturday, May 19. French-Canadian song workshop with French-Canadian folk musician and singer Benoit Bourque joined by his son Antoine on accordion. 10-11:30 a.m. in Rm. 170 at Lewiston-Auburn College (51 Westminster Street in Lewiston). Lyrics will be provided. Admission: $1. FMI: 782-0386 or www.mainefolqueco-op.com.
Saturday, May 19. Family Dance with Benoit Bourque & Son and Friends. Montreal dance master Benoit Bourque will lead kids (age 6+), parents and grandparents in a Quebecois-Style “Barn Dance” with music provided by his 22-year-old accordionist son Antoine and an affable assortment of Maine musicians. 2-3:30 p.m. in Callahan Hall at the Lewiston Public Library (200 Lisbon Street, Lewiston). Admission: $1. FMI: 782-0386 or www.mainefolqueco-op.com.
Saturday, May 19. Quebecois step dance workshop with Montreal dance master Benoit Bourque, for dancers age 13-29 with some prior tap, clogging or other percussive dance experience. 7 p.m. at Chase Hall, Bates College (56 Campus Ave., Lewiston). Admission: $1. FMI: 782-0386 or www.mainefolqueco-op.com.
Saturday, May 19. Quadrilles and other French Canadian social dances, led by Montreal dance master Benoit Bourque with accordionist Antoine Pigeon-Bourque and others; for those in their teens and 20’s, no prior dance experience required. 8 p.m. at Chase Hall, Bates College (56 Campus Ave., Lewiston). Admission: $1. FMI: 782-0386 or www.mainefolqueco-op.com.
Sunday, May 20. In Concert: Benoit Bourque & Son and Friends. French Canadian multi-instrumentalist/singer/stepdancer Benoit Bourque and his accordionist/singer son Antoine are joined by fiddlers Greg & Jessie Boardman and others in an old-time “Franco Kitchen Party” concert. 3 p.m. at the Schaeffer Theatre, Bates College (300 College Street in Lewiston). Admission: $10, $5 for children/students. FMI: 782-0386 or www.mainefolqueco-op.com.