When Joie de Vivre is a Tour de Force

Concert Review, by Bob Park

The weather might have been cold and blustery outside last Friday night, but the atmosphere inside the Frank Venables Auditorium was exactly the opposite. It was warm and friendly for the large audience who had turned out to enjoy the second concert in the South Okanagan Concert Society’s series. Fiddler Daniel Gervais, together with guitarist Clinton Pelletier and step-dancer Aline Dupuis-Gervais performed for us a highly eclectic and entertaining mix of jazz, classical, bluegrass, newgrass, country, old time, ragtime, and Celtic, which left us– two hours later– on our feet, clamoring for more. Fun for all ages and musical tastes!

To their foundational skills of technical facility and full command of the music, without which excellence does not occur, the three performers brought that more elusive “je ne sais quoi” of spontaneity, high energy and honesty. Above all, there was a tangible feeling that they themselves were really enjoying every second of what was happening. Contagious, to say the least.

We were drawn into their magic by the lively opening medley of fiddle tunes (toe-tapping and all!), including the well-known “Devil’s Dream”, which at one point morphed into a slow Gypsy Jazz minor swing. (Don Messer never had the courage to try that!). The evening continued with similar surprises and consistent spontaneity. Daniel on the fiddle and Clinton on the guitar never just went through the motions. They kept watching and listening to each other, expecting the unexpected. At one point I could hear Daniel call: “F”, which was followed by a quick key modulation and a whole musical gear shift on the violin that Clinton picked up on immediately.

Such outstanding guitar work, by a performer who is not content with just playing chords in the background, but has the skills to put the guitar on an even footing with the violin explains this duo’s success on Friday night. It was fun to listen to their constant interplay: trading fours and harmonizations of the melody between the two instruments. There are many guitar players out there, but guitarists such as Clinton Pelletier, who can trade licks on par with a hot fiddler, are very rare.

The evening passed very quickly, with the lively patter of Daniel engaging the audience with fascinating bits of history of the genres and styles prior to each piece. Clinton also gave us insight into the delightful music being created. After the performance, Aline told some of us about the regional variations in step-dancing, and demonstrated the different techniques of the Irish, the “Outaouais” (Ottawa valley), and the Quebec styles of dancing. Most interesting! I’m sure the whole audience would have loved to hear her explanations, too.

As it was, we all felt privileged to watch the beautiful step-dancing, and were mesmerized. The spotlight swung on Aline several times during the evening, as she danced to fiddle tunes that seemed to be made to measure for her movements and the beat of her feet. The prolonged applause given to her was most fitting!

The rich French Canadian heritage was highlighted again when Daniel sang and fiddled a humorous old “call and response” song, “tout en francais”, about a certain Lisette, who had some serious challenges in churning and sieving the butter through her “queue de chemise”. A rousing tune , sung at break-neck speed while simultaneously playing furiously on the fiddle—not many could pull off such a stunt.

Let me mention just a few more gems from an evening of highlights. Think: Hot Club of Paris in the “30’s. This music has never been as popular as it is today. Belgian guitar virtuoso, Django Rheinhardt and French violinist Stephane Grappelli are heros for our performers Daniel and Clinton, so no surprise that their take on the Gypsy Jazz anthem, “Minor Swing”, captured the style perfectly.

Another feat was the piece with which the first half ended: Bela Fleck and Edgar Meyer’s “Wooly Mammoth”. The theme of stampeding mammoths being pursued by sabre tooth tigers makes for a technical monster of a piece. It features exceptionally fast and tight unison melody playing. With its interesting modality and advanced harmonization this piece takes bluegrass and moves it into the realm of classical and fusion jazz. To pull that off with a smile on your face is a real achievement!

Playing Bach, (Gigue from the Partita 2, in D minor), as an opener for the second half was a brilliant choice, which took some courage, since the unaccompanied Bach violin suites are considered the “Mount Everest” of the violin world. By “unplugging” , Daniel treated us to the natural, glorious sound of a well-played violin in a good hall. ( That alone makes buying a season’s ticket worth it, doesn’t it?)

We heard the hauntingly beautiful ‘Ashokan Farewell’, the ever popular ‘Yesterday’, and some pieces by Natalie McMaster. We were introduced to a rarely heard Swedish folk instrument (the nickel-harp, an unusual cross between a fiddle and a hurdy-gurdy). We enjoyed the fact that our vivacious fiddler was also turning his hand to composition, (Belize, Reverie, Gambier). We also had fun picking out tunes we recognized in the fun-filled medley that started out as Sugar Foot Rag but was transformed by our talented duo with bits and pieces of Cotton Patch Rag, Alabama Jubilee, and more.

The night concluded with a well-deserved standing O, and an encore medley that left me feeling I’d never done so much toe-tapping in my life. Hats off to Daniel, Aline and Clinton. Please come back soon!

Fiddling, Strumming, and Dancing Up a Storm

by Marion Boyd

High excitement reigns as Daniel Gervais and Clinton Pelletier, soon to be performing in Oliver, received top honours for the Instrumental Album of the year at the recent Western Canadian Music Awards.

An eclectic program with a taste of classical, folk and gypsy jazz music will showcase the versatility and talents of these superb musicians on

Friday, November 19th
8 pm
Frank Venables (SOSS) Auditorium, Oliver BC
Single Ticket $20
4-way Flex Pass $60
17 and under FREE
Tickets at:
Beyond Bliss, Oliver
Imperial Office Pro, Osoyoos
and at the door

Joining forces with Daniel (fiddle and violin) and Clinton (guitar), will be Aline Dupuis. She is a skilled step dancer and choreographer. The performance is sponsored by the South Okanagan Concert Society and promises a lively evening and great fun.

Tickets are on sale at Beyond Bliss in Oliver, Imperial Office Pro in Osoyoos and at the door.Single admissions are $20 and those 17 and under are welcomed to attend concerts free. The popular four-admission “flex pass” ($60)  allows one person to attend 4 concerts, two people to attend two concerts, or four people to attend one concert for maximum flexibility. The venue is wheelchair accessible and those in the Oliver/Osoyoos area requiring transportation can call Maureen at 250 495 7978.

Daniel’s ability as a classical violinist was broadly recognized in 2002 when he attained the highest mark in Canada from the Royal Conservatory for his Gr. 8 Strings exam. A little older, he is now a 3rd year student in the B. Mus program of the University of Alberta and plays with the University Symphony Orchestra. Daniel’s talents are not one dimensional though. He also represented Alberta at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championship and was awarded a first place in the Traditional category of the Grand North American Old Time Fiddle Championships! He loves to compose and entertain. His debut CD “Flying Fiddle” was released in 2003 and his second, “Endless Possibilities” in 2005. He has toured North America and France.

Daniel has also appeared on countless television and radio programs such as Good Morning Canada and various CBC broadcasts. In November 2002, he travelled to London, Ontario to receive the Conservatory Canada Speake Medal of Excellence for Grade 8 Strings for having attained the highest mark in Canada. Daniel was honoured to have competed at the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddle Championship in August of 2003, representing Alberta. In 2004, Daniel returned to this competition and was a top eleven finalist. He was recently nominated for “Young Performer of the Year” at the Canadian Folk Music Awards.

Aline has fifteen years training at the Edmonton School of Ballet and is an accomplished step dancer and choreographer. She is the artistic director of Zephyr, a French Canadian dance group. She loves the challenge of choreographing and teaching intricate and complex dance routines.

Clinton is a Performance Jazz Guitar graduate of Grant MacEwan College. He is the producer and performer of Hot Club Edmonton and eclecTrip and he owns and operates the recording studio, Reel Time Studios. Creativity and high energy are Clint’s hallmarks. He has released six albums, toured France with Zephyr and performed in Scotland, England and the Shetland Islands. Check out www.tradbadour.ca, www.hotclubedmontonl.com and www.electrip.com for a glimpse into the style and versatility of Daniel and Clinton as they perform together. Then come out with friends and family to hear them live on stage in Oliver.

The B.C. Arts Council, Music Fest Vancouver, Windsor Plywood Spectacular Music B.C. and the Oliver Community Arts Council provide steady and much appreciated financial support for this concert series. Dwight and Amy Brown at the Adobe Rose B&B offer Okanagan hospitality to the musicians. FortisBC, Burrowing Owl Winery, Interior Savings OK Falls, the Kiwanis Club of Oliver and Maria Gonzales-Richer, denturist, are the local sponsors who make it possible to bring high quality, live music to our community. We cannot thank them enough.