I’m having a restful Friday afternoon after a busy start in Quebec. I arrived late Wednesday night and Philippe, the director of the Théâtre Petit Champlain, picked me up and brought me to the Hotel des Coutellier. As soon as we got to the lobby, he reached over to a display of brochures for businesses around town and took one for the theatre, then opened it to show me this:
That’s me! It was a nice welcome.
The hotel is nice, and the best part is that every morning a magic breakfast fairy delivers a picnic basket full of pastries via a little hook outside the door.
Delicious and adorable.
After breakfast Philippe met me and we walked the short ways to the Theatre. Here are some photos along my walk. The city really does look like a little slice of Europe!
The last one is Petit-Champlain, the street that the theater is on. It seems to be a gathering place for tourists as well. The city and its people are beautiful and very welcoming. While all the locals will do their best to speak in English (which is always better than they say it will be) when asked, this feels like a very French city and I certainly wish I spoke more of it!
Once at the theater, I met everyone who works there as well as the 3 participants in Cinq Fois Cinq. We each met with Sebastien, the musical director, to practice our songs for the show. The theme is rebellious songs; I was unsure of which songs they wanted me to sing until this meeting, but it turns out that my three will be Maggie’s Farm by Bob Dylan, Rehab by Amy Winehouse, and Un Canadien Errant. If you didn’t understand that last title, it’s because it’s in French. As is the entire song. It’s an old French-Canadian folk song which you can learn more about here. It is an intimidating challenge for me, and while it’s not the same as performing one of my originals that I know by heart, it is a beautiful song and I think I am up to the task.
The staff and singers had lunch together after our rehearsals, where much French was spoken. Then Geneviève and Héra took me to run some errands and to visit Montmorency Falls, just outside the city. In early spring, the still snow-covered paths were very slushy and muddy, so we didn’t get to hike much, but the falls were great to see. The waves were very strong with all the spring thaw!
Happy to see the sun!
Geneviève & Héra are fun-loving girls and roommates who have been friends for 6 years before participating together in Cinq Fois Cinq this year. Geneviève in particular has great English and especially loves music in English.
Jumping to shake the rickety bridge!
I walked through town along Rue St-Jean on my way back to the hotel, and snacked on a bit of maple candy. To serve it, the woman poured hot syrup onto a trough full of ice. You wait a few moments, then take a tongue depressor stick, start at one end, and roll it up around the end of the stick till you have a big sticky lollipop of taffy. Yummy!
I met Philippe for dinner, and we walked further along Rue St-Jean to the St. Roch neighborhood where we ate at a restaurant with a good, lively atmosphere. According to Wikipedia, “The April 1 tradition in France and French-speaking Canada includes poisson d’avril (literally “April’s fish”), attempting to attach a paper fish to the victim’s back without being noticed.” Sure enough, our server had a paper fish on her back and they seemed to swim around to the backs of all the servers while we had a peacefully long meal.
That night the Theatre was sponsoring a rock concert at a larger venue; Wolf Parade was playing at the Imperial. It reminded me of the Metro, but much nicer. Cynthia from 5×5 was there, and while she struggles with English we were able to communicate with the help of her girlfriend and another friend we ran into who had majored in English and who, by the way, was hilarious. I had a great time hanging out with those girls. The show was packed and the best part was that unlike crowds of hipsters in Chicago, the people were VERY enthusiastic! Singing along like crazy (which I especially love at rock shows), dancing, clapping, and yes, bodysurfing. I think 12 different bodies got passed around.
Downstairs, pre-show. Not too crowded yet.
From the balcony. Lights, Camera, Action! Rock out! I was exhausted by the end of this very long day and was happy to get in the cab home. The cabbie of course was wide awake and I didn’t get inside the hotel until after we sat outside while he gave me instructions for all the things I ought to do and see in this fair city. I had a similar experience with a guy selling paintings on the street, who stuck up a conversation when he saw my guitar. People here seem to love to chat and share.
Today I was coached on my performances for the 3 songs and on my French for Un Canadien Errant. There are a few group numbers, also in French, so I may get involved with those to some degree as well. I had a little sandwich and soup in a cafe and have had a lovely relaxing time writing this post for you, dear Reader. Now I’m going to get outside to enjoy the sun– it’s 59 degrees F, which is 20 degrees warmer than it was when I left this morning!