A big thank you to Michel Riopel and to the organisers of this truly spectacular tenth anniversary celebration of what is one of the friendliest and most welcoming mid-winter festivals around. This is the 10th year that the tiny hamlet of St-Bernard-de-Michaudville, about 20 minutes from St-Hyacinthe, has hosted this festival of traditional Québécois music.
This year, the festival added a Thursday night show to its regular Friday-Saturday-Sunday programming, which normally includes two evening shows, a Saturday afternoon confiture (jam session) and a Sunday afternoon dance. This is a very relaxed festival, with the evening concerts being the main events. The Saturday jam is the earliest you need to get up, and that starts at 1pm.
We arrived moments before the start of the Thursday night show, which featured Genticorum, Réveillons!, and Nicholas Pellerin et les Grands Hurleurs. It was a pretty full house, with a number of little ones dancing around, and a happy, singing crowd. During the Réveillons! set, the stage was renamed in honour of the hometown heroes, the Berthiaume famile (many of whom were present, both on stage and in the audience). David and Jean-François (Berthiaume, of Réveillons!) were the official hosts for the weekend, welcoming to the stage some of the many local singers in between acts.
Genticorum were particularly sharp, having just recorded their live album, which is expected to be released at the end of March. Réveillons! were particular crowd-pleasers, choosing a repertoire of songs in which the audience joined in lustily. Nicholas Pellerin and his Grands Hurleurs, Simon and Simon, ended the evening wonderfully, with a fiery set.
Friday night’s set started out with Outaouais-area group La Tuque Bleue, a group of young friends and relations who quickly got the crowd jumping with their high energy and excitement. So they were already in the right mood for Les Chauffeurs à Pieds, who wound the crowd up even further. Technically brilliant and steeped in tradition, this band could easily be (and often are) headliners at folk festivals.