St. Albans, Vermont
The history of the French in the Americas dates back to the early 1500s, as they immigrated to the northeastern shores of Maine, Southern Gaspé Peninsula, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The eventual domination by the British of Acadia in the 1700s -- and the Acadians unwillingness to take an oath of allegiance to the British crown -- meant deportation back to France or, for some, to Louisiana. Years later, those that returned to Acadia mingled with the Scots and Irish that had settled there in their absence, and a natural blending of cultural traditions occurred, Quebecois music being more closely aligned with Irish music, and Acadian music more influenced by the Scottish styles.
Prior to the Civil War and into the early 1900s, French-Canadians began immigrating to the United States in search of work in the quickly industrializing cities of Maine and New Hampshire. While they intended to stay for only a few years and return to Canada, many made permanent homes for themselves, bringing, of course, their language and cultural traditions with them.
Michèle Choinière was born into a musical Franco-American family in northern Vermont, and from an early age performed traditional Franco-American music with her father Fabio, an accomplished harmonica player. "The traditional music that I was born into came from my grandfather. The music was carried through my father's harmonica playing, transferred from Quebec to Vermont through my parents' kitchen. Everything happened in the kitchen."
In 1995, she began writing and composing her own songs and has performed to audiences throughout New England, Quebec and France. Her lyrics and music focus on nature, romance and social issues connected to being Franco-American. She has been featured on TV5 International's "Visions d'Amerique," which was broadcast to francophone nations worldwide, as well as on Vermont Public Television's "Rural Delivery" and has recorded an archival family collection of Franco-American music with her father. She is featured on the Smithsonian Folkways CD "Mademoiselle Voulez-Vous Danser: Franco-American music from the New England Borderlands" released in 1999.
Dr. Ted Levin, Ethnomusicologist and Professor of Music at Dartmouth College says: "Writing and singing in both English and French, she powerfully expresses her cultural identity as a bilingual Franco-American from the New England borderlands. Her repertory and vocal style are as eclectic as they are evocative: jaunty French cabaret songs rub elbows with contemplative ballads and pop-tinged lyrical folk melodies. The overarching emotion of this music is a dark gaiety, sophisticated and brooding. Ms. Choiniere represents contemporary New England "roots" music at its best."
In addition to performing, Michèle teaches French at a local high school.
Performing with Michèle will be Rachel Aucoin and Sabin Jacques. While classically trained, Rachel has always been drawn to traditional music through her Acadian heritage, and is today considered one of the best québécois-style accompanists, havings recorded with Québécois artists Francine Desjardins and Jean Duval, and American fiddler Laura Risk. She is known for her percussive, colorful and sensitive style.
Sabin is widely regarded as one of Québec's top accordionists. He has played the accordion since the age of 14 and has developed a unique, left-handed style. Originally from the Gaspé peninsula, he has played internationally at innumerable festivals as a member of Domino and other formations.