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An Enthralling Evening with Vishten

Venue: One Longfellow Square, Portland, ME ~ July 14, 2011 ~

Aug 2, 2011
Kimmy Sophia Brown

The French Canadian band, Vishten knocked us out during their performance at One Longfellow Square. Some of the best musicians on the planet come from Canada – maybe partly because of the number of hours they have to stay inside in the winter. To heck with video games. Canadians practice musical instruments and sing when they have to stay inside and it really pays off. They create a total immersion effect with the audience.  I was swept away from the first note and heard myself let out a big sigh after the first song. The tension was leaving me and I was all ears and heart, awaiting the onslaught of more beauty.

Twin sisters Pastelle and Emmanuelle LeBlanc from the tiny Acadian community of Prince Edward Island and Pascal Miousse from the Magdalen Islands, comprise Vishten. Their voices and musicianship are exceptional, steeped in lifetimes growing up in musical families. Pascal, who has been playing violin since the age of five, is handsome and sturdy with curly black hair. He has a boyish playful demeanor and is astounding on the violin and guitar. He played strong and hard but with sensitivity and delicacy. He explained that the rhythm of the motor on the fishing boats is partly responsible for the specific style unique to fiddle players from the Magdalen islands.

VishtenPretty, blond Emmanuelle had a platform beneath her feet and kept time with rollicking steps while she played the bodhran drum, the tin whistle, the Jew’s harp and keyboards. Pastelle, her pretty dark-haired sister, played an exquisite, old-looking accordion and keyboards as well. Their voices have an ethereal quality and the harmonies are exquisite. Their presentation was energetic, joyous and fresh. I've said this so many times it's getting to be ridiculous, but I can't believe how much music can come out of such a small group of people!

The word, Vishten, comes from a silly, nonsense song that they sang as children. The father of fourteen children, who was always searching for things to keep his children occupied, composed it. I don’t speak French and I would never have guessed the meaning of their other songs either. The beautiful melodies did not seem to match the oddball story lines. For example, there was a song about a woman who worries that her fisherman husband will be seduced by Italian women. Another one was about someone cheating on their spouse and hiding the lover under the blankets and telling the spouse it was a cat or other objects. There was a song written by a lobster fisherman who fell overboard into cold water in October. He kept his fiddle on board to play when he needed to warm up. On this particular occasion, Pascal related that the fisherman wrote the song about the part of the anatomy of a man “zat shrink in ze cold”.  Their repertoire covers every occasion!

They said that in Acadia they have a lot of sit down dances where everyone is doing dance steps under the table. This practice began because the church once forbade dancing, so tapping their feet under the table seemed less sinful. They told stories of traveling for hours by ferryboat to music festivals in places like the Shetland Islands in Scotland. Long before arriving at the festival they bonded with other musicians and played on the ferryboat all day and night. In fact, they spent most of their lives playing music til dawn at all night house parties. Sheesh, when I die I want to come back as a musically talented French Canadian in my next life! I’m jealous!

The two hours went by too fast. They were wonderful to listen to, wonderful to watch and thoroughly inspirational. Magnifique! I would be thrilled to hear them live again. They have a beautifully designed website with a lot of great photos, tour schedule and cd purchase information. Visit their website at vishten.net.

For music lovers visiting Portland, Maine, I highly recommend
One Longfellow Square ~ "Portland's Premier Arts Venue"
Check them out at onelongfellowsquare.com.
press photo from vishten.net

Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.

She writes the column "From the Back Porch" as well as reviews of music in her column "MusicViews". Her goal in her music reviews is to introduce music she loves to people who may not have heard that particular artist or CD. For information about how to submit a CD for review, click here.

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