MISE À SAINT-VENANT-DE-PAQUETTE DAY | He is one of our greats. With his sister Marie-Claire, with Fiori and solo, Richard Séguin has written some of the most beautiful pages in the history of French-speaking Quebec music. He is 70 years old, but does not do them at all, he continues to create songs and works of art in his beloved village of Saint-Venant-de-Paquette, in Estrie. He has everything to be happy, but he feels the need to sound the alarm: our culture is in danger, we must do something.
“It is deplorable that in Quebec, French-language songs are listened to on platforms at a rate between 7% and 9%. That worries me a little.”
A little? You should have seen him burst into flames in the village cafe where he invited the Journal representative to sit down for a long interview last month, when our conversation veered to the preservation of French-speaking Quebec musical culture.
“I don't understand the broadcasters who bombard us with American charts. It permeates our entire unconscious, it standardizes everything. Heille, you're leaving me on this…”, he protests. “I have nothing against American music, I listen to a lot of it, English music, world music. There is still a priority, or an urgency, to leave room for francophone creation in Quebec. What's it going to be for the song if we don't act right away? I'm afraid it will become marginal music. It is already marginalized…”
That our musical heritage is not taught to the younger generation nor highlighted does not suit them in the head.
“Young people don't know Pauline Julien. They don't really know the work of Léveillée, of Sylvain Lelièvre. The list is long, we could go back to Vigneault. I find that it is very, very harmful for our culture.”
We have to educate, insists Richard Séguin.
“We fought and we are going to have a house of song. It was Monique Giroux who fought for that, when the question does not even arise in Europe. In France, people will tame their writing heritage, their song heritage, their poetry heritage. They even know where what they (the artists) are buried, it is studied in schools. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
However, when you take the trouble, it works, he notes, recalling his participation in the musical project 12 rapaillés men based on the poems of Gaston Miron.
“The reception of people was incredible. They were responding to that. They drank each of Miron's texts. This is one initiative. There was a very strong Miron effect.”
Like and spread
Education is essential, but that is not all. For French-speaking song from here to stay alive, you have to love it and make it heard, says the man who has had immense popular success with his albums Double vie, Journée d'Amérique and At the gates of the morning.
“That is the first condition. You have to love the creation that is done here. When you like something, you want to spread it. I sometimes ask broadcasters and they say that's not what they (their listeners) want to hear. Yes, but you don't give them a choice. If you want us to listen to something, give a choice and then we will know if they want to hear it. Me, Rihanna, I am very happy that she is making her career, but I would also like to hear Marie-Pierre Arthur. Give me a choice!”
The danger of this, as he mentions above, is the standardization of what reaches our ears. The consequences are already observable.
“My sister had been asked by a teacher to give some basic principles for vocalizations to her students because she had organized an end-of-year show. When she got there, she found that the whole show was in English. Surprisingly, the professor had not noticed it,” says Richard Séguin.
He himself provides a good example of the importance of knowing the musical culture of his people well when asked who were the most significant people in his artistic career.
Spontaneously, he names Félix Leclerc.
“Even if I met him just twice in my life, Félix remains a beacon for me when it comes to how to do the job, how to approach the song, how to integrate life and creation in a whole. I read his notebooks a lot. These are small, simple philosophical reflections that are part of everyday life. He really influenced me.”
He, in turn, wants to pass on the torch so that French-speaking Quebec songs will survive for a long time.
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Katrine Johns has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Gal Post, Katrine Johns worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my email@example.com 1-800-268-7128