April 11, 2003
University of Maine at Fort Kent Acadian Archives/Archives acadiennes director Lisa Ornstein's beautiful violin playing is being heard on a recently released CD entitled Hommage à Marius Barbeau.
The CD, produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, is a project that began almost two years ago when Danielle Martineau, a folk arts specialist and musician friend of Ornstein, set out to produce new settings for 28 songs from the more than 9,000 traditional French-language ballads which pioneer anthropologist and folklorist Marius Barbeau collected in Quebec in the early 1900s.
Between 1914 and 1922, Barbeau documented the folksongs, legends, and traditional art of Quebec's French-speaking population and later popularized this heritage through many books and articles. He did most of his music recording on wax cylinders, using a primitive recording machine which he loaded on the back of a bicycle and pedaled through the back roads of Quebec.
"Marius Barbeau was a cultural visionary. He understood that there was a wealth of wisdom, power, and timeless beauty in the traditions he recorded," said Ornstein.
The next step in the process for Martineau was to find the musicians and vocalists to bring the music to life. The project coordinator immediately thought of Ornstein, her friend of over 20 years, who is well known in Quebec both as a fiddler and as an accompanist of traditional singers.
Ornstein was born in Connecticut and raised in a household in Illinois and Ohio filled with Renaissance and Baroque music, thanks to her mother, who played harpsichord. She took up the violin as a child and began playing traditional music as a teenager.
A musical friendship with the late Franco-American fiddler Louis Beaudoin led her to head for Quebec in her early twenties, with her fiddle tucked under her arm, for what was supposed to be a six-month visit. Quebec's traditional music and musicians cast such a powerful spell on her that she could not leave, and stayed on a dozen more years.
During that time, she was a member of La Bottine Souriante, spent countless hours playing and learning music in kitchens and dance halls, completed a master of arts in folklore at Laval University, and worked as a co-administrator with Danielle Martineau at the Centre de valorisation du patrimoine vivant, a non-profit folk arts center in Quebec City. Though she now lives in Fort Kent, where she is passing on the traditional music of the area, Ornstein crosses the border as often as she can to keep up her musical friendships.
"I am so honored that Danielle asked me to be part of this project. Arranging these amazing songs and recording them with some of the best young traditional singers in Quebec in the studio where the Montreal Symphony Orchestra does their albums, was a thrill," said Ornstein.
The vocalists on Hommage à Marius Barbeau are Éric Beaudry, a founding member of La Galvaude, a group of musicians from the Lanaudière region in Quebec who perform traditional Quebec music, André Marchand, a founding member of La Bottine Souriante, Lisan Hubert, a talented singer with roots in the Magdelen Islands, and Danielle Martineau, who is also the album's artistic director. Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Roy also performs on several songs.
The CD Hommage à Marius Barbeau's 28 songs include lullabies, murder ballads, love songs, counting songs, drinking songs, and satires. It comes with an illustrated, bilingual booklet which includes the song lyrics as well as biographies of Marius Barbeau and the recording artists. Copies are available for purchase through the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's on-line store at the following internet address: http://cbcrecords.ca/catalog.