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A Summer Serenade by Lilianne Labbe with Don Hinkley

Venue: Seaside Pavilion, Old Orchard Beach ME ~ July 20, 2010

Oct 23, 2010
Kimmy Sophia Brown

On a lovely evening in July, Peter and I went to thebeautifully constructed and aesthetically pleasing, outdoor, Seaside Pavillion, in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. My friend, the incredibly gifted French Canadian singer, Lilianne Labbe, and her amazing guitarist/singing partner, Don Hinkley, were giving a concert together after a ten-year hiatus. It was a great night for it. The air was warm and birds chirped from the eaves before the music began, adding to the ambiance of the summer night.

Lilianne and Don performed mostly traditional FrenchCanadian folk songs. I don’t speak French, but it didn’t matter. Lilianne translated the songs into English, and many of them had very surreal stories. Such as the one about a girl who eats some peas from a field behind her house, gets sick in bed for three months and no-one visits her. Then her lover shows up carrying a white glove in his left hand saying, “Let’s get married next Sunday, and we’ll make love day and night.” Not a word about her being sick in bed for three months. What was he thinking? As Don said, they don’t write them like that anymore.

Lilianne Labbe and Don HinkleyThere was also one about Marguerite who is going to pickhazelnuts. She is petite, pricks her finger on a thorn and falls asleep. Twenty years later the cavalry rides by and someone says,

Isn’t she small,

isn’t she pretty?

I’ll marry her,

we’ll have three children

who will become captains.

That’s another quizzical story that leaves you scratchingyour head.

Lilianne is a tall slim, silver haired woman, with arelaxed and humorous air and a seemingly effortless ability with a melody. Her voice is in the class of Judy Collins, very full and powerful. Don had a very warm spirit and the guitar proficiency of Richard Thompson. He sang harmony with Lilianne and also performed a lovely Portuguese song by Jaimee’ O’Vallee, for which he rewrote the lyrics in English, called, “Me and Room for You”.

Many of the songs were very lively, and Lilianne playedthe spoons with enviable rhythm, as well as clicked her boots in time. She explained, the left foot goes up and down on just the heel, and the right foot goes, heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe. We practiced as an audience, but she creamed us.

After the boot tapping lesson, they performed, “LaDestinee La Rose Aux Bois”, which was translated:

I was my mother and father’s only child.

When they sent me to the local school,

all the girls wanted to kiss me.

It’s not a girl’s place to be kissing boys,

she should be sweeping the house.

When the house is clean, all the boys come in,

entering four by four and stamping their heels.

That’s the way it is in our township.

And boy, I bet the girls wanted to kick those boys rightin their arrogant little shins. After hearing songs like these, how could anyone question the origins of the women’s liberation movement?

One of the really gorgeous tunes was one that they saidSamuel de Champlain sang with his men when they first arrived in Acadia, but I didn’t catch the name. It was truly lovely.

Another very moving song was called, “Un Canadien Errant”,which Lilianne translated:

A wandering Canadian,

banished from his homeland,

roamed strange countries with tears in his eyes.

One day at a river’s edge he was thoughtful and sad and spoketo the stream,

‘If you see my sad land, tell my friends I remember them,

O days of happiness, you are gone and, alas,

I will never see my country again.’

Lilianne and Don have performed together for overtwenty-five years, at festivals, schools, and many other venues, including Prairie Home Companion. It was a great pleasure to attend this unique concert. Anyone who appreciates folk music would thoroughly enjoy their interpretations of these old songs, as well as their original compositions. Lilianne graced us with a very lovely version of the Stephen Sondheim song, “Send in the Clowns”, as well.

It is always great to get out and hear music live, anddoubly great when it is performed with such high quality and beauty. We drove home afterwards feeling very uplifted and inspired.

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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