'It blew me away': Father, daughter to record his Acadian music
'Maybe in 50 years' time, maybe somebody will be singing our songs'
It was at the closing concert for the Acadian Festival in P.E.I. last September when Paul D. Gallant had an epiphany.
His daughter Adrienne Gallant brought the crowd of about 2,000 people to their feet with a moving version of her dad's French song, Je te Reviens (Mon Acadie) — translated: I'm Coming Back to You, My Acadie.
It would be easier to do a CD in English, but that's what everybody else is doing.— Paul D. Gallant
Gallant is turning 60 this year and the Acadian culture developer had been thinking about his bucket list — one item was to somehow compile his hundreds of original French songs, performed by dozens of Acadian musicians over the years, to leave as a legacy to Adrienne.
"And it just hit me — I don't want to do a CD for myself! But I'd love it if my daughter would do it. And that's where the project was born," the senior Gallant said.
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Adrienne said the response from the audience that night "blew me away."
"It felt really emotional," she said.
A video of her performance posted to Facebook quickly gained thousands of views, and people began asking her when she planned to record a CD.
Performing not his thing
Paul lives in Cheticamp, Cape Breton, now but grew up in Mont-Carmel in P.E.I.'s francophone region. He lived and worked on the Island until the mid-1990s promoting francophone culture, writing and producing live music, CDs and theatre for several local acts including Panou, Gameck, La Cuisine a Mémé, Marcella Richard and more — but he'd never felt the desire to produce his own CD, until now.
"I was a bit like Adrienne — I was singing here and there, and there weren't many francophone artists singing their own material, from P.E.I.," Paul said, recalling when he began writing and playing his own music in the 1970s.
He'd begun landing gigs including French-language television shows when he decided performing was not for him.
"I don't want to do this for a living! It clicked in me. I sort of let go," he said.
He kept writing songs for others, though. "I draw more pleasure out of seeing them on a stage than picturing me on that stage."
Adrienne, 30, is a single mom in Summerside, P.E.I., where she works in a call centre but has always devoted much of her spare time to playing music.
The pair launched a GoFundMe campaign last week seeking $10,000 to record the first of several CDs. Donors can receive a variety of rewards, from $20 for a CD to $30 for a CD and tickets to one of the launch concerts.
The money will pay for musicians, travel, and mixing and manufacturing 500 CDs, as well as for two launch concerts, one in Cape Breton and one in P.E.I., this October.
As of publication time, the campaign had reached $1,000. The Gallants say the project will go ahead no matter how much it raises. Paul said they may apply for grants, borrow money for it and ask favours of musician friends.
"We're determined — I don't think I've ever had a project that we didn't find a way to make it work."
'He broke down crying'
And that song, Je te Reviens, that started the ball rolling last fall?
Paul was inspired to write it after a trip to Louisiana, to where many exiled Acadians fled in the 1700s. He was helping to mount the play Port La Joye with some Acadian actors from P.E.I. One of them had Acadian roots and a French surname, but no connection to the culture or language. The group was visiting the site of one of the earliest Acadian settlements in St. Martinville.
"He broke down crying — he had realized that something had been missing. All his culture, he had taken it for granted," Paul said. That's where the words came from — "I'm coming back to you, Acadie, I'm never going to leave again."
It's an interesting starting point for a project that will preserve French Acadian music for posterity.
"I've always been involved in the preservation of language and culture," said Paul, who was a founding member of Canada's francophone youth federation in 1974 and founding president of P.E.I.'s young Acadian group, Jeunesse Acadienne. Songs and plays galvanize people and can strengthen culture, he said.
"It's a real struggle," he said. "Survival of the culture and language — it's not a simple question, but doing something today — maybe in 50 years' time, maybe somebody will be singing our songs."
'A lot of emotion'
It's important to record in French, Adrienne said, to promote the language. She's one of the only French-speaking employees in her workplace and said it was important to her to enrol her son in French school.
"Singing French — there is a lot of emotion in that," she said.
They believe there is a market for the music.
"It would be easier to do a CD in English, but that's what everybody else is doing," Paul said. "We're already inundated by the American influence.
"Long live diversity in Canada!"
They're hoping if the CD sells well and makes a bit of money, they'll be able to record more of Gallant's songs in the future.
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