Mark Sullivan reports on the Swiss song festival.
Every two years the Swiss town of Pully, a suburb of Lausanne on the shore of Lake Geneva, holds a song festival of francophone music from North America.
It is the initiative of a local politician, Rico Perriard, who began it in 1996. It now includes other villages on the famous wine-growing slopes of the Lavaux.
Big names draw the audience – in 2014, Isabelle Boulay and Lynda Lemay. The income they bring enables the organisers to fly over other singers, who do not attract crowds but are at the artistic summit of Quebec music. This year, Catherine Major and Salomé Leclerc flew from Canada, for their only appearance in Europe this year. (Les Soeurs Boulay also featured, but unfortunately Ingrid St-Pierre cancelled at a late stage due to illness.)
Both Catherine and Salomé appeared solo.
Catherine Major appeared on 11 June in a large sports hall, on a high stage more suited for a rock or country-folk band. She began with some beautiful piano-playing, and then a number of her well-known songs including ‘Saturne sans anneaux’, ‘Valser en mi bémol’ and ‘Amadeus’. She sang ‘La voix humaine’ standing on the edge of the stage, a-capella, and finished with ‘Le piano ivre’.
The conditions were not right for a fine performance. A singer at the piano on a high stage is not easy to see well, and the lighting was disappointing. The least good feature was that the speakers for her voice were to the sides, so that piano and voice came from different directions. One hopes that next time she will be able to appear in the main Pully theatre, the Thèâtre Octagone, in a well so that the audience looks down on her, and play with good acoustics. Nevertheless, it was good to see Catherine live.
See her in full flow with a band and string accompaniment at Festivoix, Trois-Rivières in July 2012 here with ‘Saturne sans Anneaux’.
Salomé Leclerc played on 13 June in a tiny theatre, the Thèâtre de la Voirie, with just 60 places, and the audience was very close to her indeed. My photos understate how stunning she is. Tall and slim, at 27 she is the perfect representative of the ‘folk alternative’ side of Quebec music. With her long training in percussion, she can create a fine sound solo from just a guitar – acoustic or electric – and a set of drums. There cannot be anyone else who can do so much by herself in live performance.
With just an hour, she offered four tracks from her debut album – ‘Partir ensemble’,
‘Ne reviens pas’, ‘Love, naive, love’ and the rarely-heard ‘Volcan’. From her forthcoming second album she gave us ‘Arlon’ and ‘Vers le Sud’ and two new as yet unavailable tracks. She was regretful that there was not time in her set to sing some of her best-known tracks – ‘Tourne encore’, ‘Sous les arbres’, ‘Caméléon’. Worth hearing was ‘Garde-moi collée’, most memorably sung live in 2012 on TV5 Monde.
It was a surprise talking to Salomé afterwards, as when she speaks English she sounds European – Swiss even – and not Canadian. Her whole style – appearance and performance – seems suited for this side of the Atlantic. So we must hope that she will be back soon.
The good news for Filles Sourires is that Salomé told me ‘I know Filles Sourires’ and that she has read the May 2014 post about her! Once her second album ‘ 27 fois l’aurore’ is out this September, will Salomé return to Europe ? If she reads this post, I hope she decides on another visit, with her band.