Standing on the rocky bluffs of Nova Scotia, Briand Melanson, 25, often ponders his French Acadian culture.
“It’s very distinct. The way we talk, the food we eat like Robbie pie. And our music is fiddle music for a kitchen party. Our music is everywhere,” says Melanson in a telephone interview from his Saint Marie Bay home.
Melanson is the main vocalist and driving force behind Grand Dérangement, a five-piece French Acadian band coming to the International Children’s Festival from May 26 to 30. Also on board are Daniel Leblanc (fiddle), Jean Pascal Comeau (bass/dancer), Charles Robichaud (guitar) and Danielle Leblanc (dancer) performing a musical style centred on the fiddle and step dancing.
The traditional Acadian mix is a grab bag of francophone, Celtic and English songs. While Grand Dérangement respects its traditional roots, it has infused its more contemporary sound with influences of bluegrass, rock and roll and Cajun. “We try to be subtle in incorporating different influences to keep it fresh and attract younger audiences.”
The name Grand Dérangement is actually borrowed from a black hole of Canadian history. Back in 1755, the Acadians were often stuck in the middle of disputes between the French and British. The Acadians were required to take an oath to the British Crown. When they refused, more than 8,000 Acadians were deported to New England, the southern colonies, New York, Pennsylvania and Europe in a grand dérangement.
Today there are about 10,000 Canadians speaking Acadian. “Even though our culture is small, we have a lot to offer the world stage. Our music crosses all borders. It is important keep younger people interested, and hopefully they will see the potential that is here.”
Melanson, who shifted musical allegiance from the mainstream bar scene to soft theatre promoting family fare, conceived Grand Dérangement with Michele Thibault, an old high school teacher. Thibault is the unofficial sixth member and primary songwriter. “People feel our culture because of the dancing and fiddle and the visual appeal flavours it up.”
Determined to carry their banner to every corner of the world, the band spends up to seven months a year travelling. In addition to Canada, they’ve covered 47 American states, Mexico, Italy, Belgium, Germany, France and Romania. “We have found the right niche.” Their French/English website is available at www.grandderangement.com
International Children's Festival
Downtown St. Albert
Tickets: $10/adults; $8.50/children