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Sara Cornett, The McGill Tribune, November 7, 2000

SuperMicMac is a superb festival focusing on music and women

If you are one of the unenlightened, it is time for you to find out: SuperMicMac is a three-week festival showcasing new, contemporary, electroacoustic and experimental music composed and performed by women across Canada. One of the festival’s goals is to make known those artists who remain in the shadows.

The opening show by Ensemble SuperMusique featured songs by the folksinger Mary Travers (a.k.a. La Bolduc). I had the privilege of attending a repent performance the following night. La Bolduc was a mother of 12, who lived during the Depression in the 1930s. She learned to play the violin, harmonica and guimbarde and traveled around Quebec, performing her music (which amounts to approx. 85 songs).

Historically, Travers’ music has been an inspiration to Quebeckers. Despite a povertymarked background, La Bolduc brought lovable, sometimes goofy lyrics and uplifting melodies to the people in times of hardship. I found the theme appropriate as an introduction to this festival.

With the theme of a musical mosaic of femininity in my mind, I was surprised when I saw 7 men among the members of the 11 person-ensemble on stage. “Isn’t this supposed to be all about women?“ I thought to myself, but my puzzled state eventually became one of fascination and sheer delight. Later, I realized the songs were arranged by women composers and musicians.

The best thing about the show was that it was wonderfully unconventional. Accustomed to classical concerts, I anticipatod musicians in formal attire who would follow the conductor’s direction from a podium, and expectod the audience’s -applause to come at the end of segments. This show broke every one of these moulds. From their casual attire to the audience’s round of applause after every song, the concert was all about the unexpected. The musicians showed their admiration and enjoyment for each other’s talents through smiles and laughter.

With a personal and comical touch the master of ceremonies briefly described each musician, their instruments and their role in the ensemble. The conductor of the Ensemble SuperMusique is referred to as the Chef designé (appointed chief), emphasizing their purposeful break from the conventional. Though the music was rearranged in a dramatic way, the songs still preserved the cultual feel of old Québec folk music.

I never cease to be amazed at the diversity of this world and of its people. This was no exception. Before my eyes, a fifty-year-old woman was groovin’ to the cool sounds she produced on her synthesizer. All the musicians played different instruments and they exploited various sound-producing techniques. In the first song Quitte pour quitte, the drummer used jingle bells as drumsticks, along with dramatic growling. In another song, the singer sang her Iyrics through à harmonica. In Les marigouins, with the saxophone, violin, guitar, accordion and xylophone, they produced the sound of a mosquito invasion.

As the emcee pointed out, quoting La Bolduc, when all is stripped away, one can always fall back on la turluite. The general 3 meaning refers to Song or the act of singing. La Bolduc treats the Song as a gift that no one can take away from you. The last song, called Ça va venir, decouragez-vous pas (It’ll come, don’t let it bring you down), is an expression of hope in the face of despair appreciate this tribute to La Bolduc, for no matter what beliefs you might hold, hope, love and joy reach everyone and she left a musical legacy as testament. Whether everyone understood the 3 performance in this way is doubt- ful, but it was obvious the great | majority enjoyed it.

I encourage all to check out the remaining performances, but hurry because half the festival is over.