Photo of Dervish: Therese Cox

How it’s New York: The APAP (Association of Presenters and Performers) World Music Showcase, featuring
Dervish and Le Vent du Nord, took place last month at Drom in New York City’s
East Village.

How it’s Irish: Dervish hail from the West of Ireland and are one of Ireland’s premier trad bands; Le Vent du Nord play traditional
French-Canadian music with strong Celtic influences.

Therese Cox attended the showcase and writes a review of the
On a cold, drizzly January night, Dervish and Le Vent du Nord brought a
gust of rousing music, a swirl of storytelling, and bit of warmth to Drom on
Avenue A

Forget about the Eskimos’ fifty words for snow. The Irish
have just as many words for bad weather – and just as many ways for dealing
with it.
It’s fitting, then, that both bands that played the APAP World Music
at Drom on this dreary January night – Ireland’s
Dervish and Québec’s
Le Vent du Nord (the phrase translates as “the North wind”) — have names that
evoke a windswept, weathered landscape. Although the bands hail from different
parts of the world,
the spirited energy they brought to their music and
performances acted as a perfect complement to one another – and a fitting
antidote for the bitter weather.

Photo of Le Vent du Nord: Therese Cox

Call me a traditionalist, but I think the best way to enjoy
trad music is huddled indoors while a storm rages outside. There should be a
nip of whiskey not far away and a peat fire burning. Hoots and hollers spring
up while musicians gather round and let loose on the tunes. For my turf fire this Monday night, I had to settle
for flickering votives. Instead of Ireland’s rugged landscape, there was
a distinctly East Village vibe to the black walls, deep-colored drapes, exposed
brick, and ponderous chandeliers, while servers in black and a bearded fella in
a trompe l’oeil tuxedo shirt shuttled complicated cocktails to the tables.
Fortunately, the music brought plenty of spark and warmth to the evening, making it easy to be swept
away. I
 took to heart the warm, wry advice of Dervish’s Cathy Jordan, who told the gathered crowd to sit back and “Enjoy yourselves – for God’s sake!”

While Dervish’s melodies took the audience through the
rugged fields of the West of Ireland,
Le Vent du Nord’s invitation was to the countryside of Québec. Both bands are heavy-hitters in the
traditional musical world, garnering praise and honors throughout North America
and beyond. Both brought a vibrant, full sound to the stage, performing
traditional songs with contemporary energy, the chemistry among band members
evident and well-earned after many years of performing together. This show
marked the first excursion into New York City for Le Vent du Nord, and let us hope
they will come back soon!

Photo of Dervish: Therese Cox

Dervish stormed the stage first. Featuring Brian McDonagh on
Liam Kelly on flutes and whistles, Tom Morrow on fiddle,
Shane Mitchell on accordion, Cathy Jordan on vocals and bodhrán, and Michael
on bouzouki, Dervish combined stirring traditional Irish music with
theatrical energy. It’s a thrill to watch a group at the height of their
powers, and the easy chemistry that flowed from player to player made Dervish’s set dynamic.
Cathy Jordan’s strong stage presence anchored Dervish throughout the set,
as she alternated between singing and bodhrán. Her ethereal yet earthy
vocalizations provided ornamentation over a solid set that ranged from
traditional Irish ballads to energetic hornpipes to a handful of slowed-down
jigs that showcased the band’s impeccable musicianship.

Photo of Tom Morrow and Cathy Jordan: Therese Cox

Storytelling took
center stage as Jordan, between songs, led the audience through the narratives,
from the tale of a crossdressing woman who joined the navy to a haunting lament
for the unfortunate children in Ireland who were farmed away to other families.
Jordan’s wry introductions lightened the heavy material, including the murder
ballad about a man who murdered his too-lazy wife. Quipped Jordan before the
band launched into the lilting 6/8 ballad, to be featured on the band’s new
album, out this February:
To all you married people out there – beware.
Make sure you get up and feed the hens.”
Another highlight was the band’s
rendition of “Boots of Spanish Leather,” which was a passionate and quiet
haunting of a song. The closing piece – a set called “The Cornerhouse” – showed
Dervish at their most energetic and rousing and ended the set on a high note.

Photo of Simon Beaudry: Therese Cox

Le Vent du Nord’s New York City debut was by turns raucous
and nuanced, a beautifully crafted showcase of traditional Québecois music,
seasoned with strong Celtic and Cajun flavors.
The four musicians, who have
been playing music together for over ten years, brought a charisma to the
material that is unmatched, sharing their enthusiasm for the material with the
audience as they performed songs from their latest album,
Tromper le Temps (which translates as “fooling time”). The words were in French, but their ability to communicate with the
audience transcended the language barrier. The audience did, I note, include a
scattering of enthusiastic Francophone fans who gaily sang along with the band
on traditional rave-ups like “Au Bord de la Fontaine.” An emotional highlight
of the show was the group’s moving a capella rendition of “Le Retour du Fils
Soldat,” that held the audience spellbound.

Photo of Le Vent du Nord: Therese Cox

The band’s Simon Beaudry (guitar,
bouzouki) and
Nicolas Boulerice (hurdy-gurdy, piano) alternated main vocal
duties, while
Réjean Brunet’s charismatic accordion, bass, and jaw harp
accentuated the tunes with a full sound and
Olivier Demer’s driving violin and
foot-tapping kept the energy level high. Boulerice’s hurdy-gurdy added a grinding
grittiness to the band’s sound, and by the end of the show, the crowd was on
its feet, clapping and stomping along as the band smiled and plowed their way
through the end of a fantastic set. The band’s energy is positive and
infectious. Did I add how hard it can be to bring a black-clad, East Village
crowd to its feet, smiling and clapping? Not a problem for Le Vent du Nord.

Photo of Le Vent du Nord: Therese Cox

After the show, I spoke with Nicolas Boulerice about the
material, interested to learn more about the storytelling. Fortunately, Le Vent du Nord’s website has full translations of many of the band’s songs, which is
well worth checking out. I also couldn’t resist asking Boulerice about the
genesis of the band’s name. Just as the band gathers much of their material
from their ancestors – their version of “Au Bord de la Fontaine” was inspired
by a version passed down from Boulerice’s father from the Richelieu Valley – so
do they borrow the phrase “Le Vent du Nord” from a phrase passed down from
Boulerice’s grand-uncle.
“There is a phrase,” Boulerice says, “That goes, ‘Le vent du
nord est toujours frette, peu importe de quell bord y vient.’” The phrase translates
roughly as “The northern wind is always cold, no matter which direction it’s
coming from.”
Sounds like Irish weather to my ears.

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