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Homegrown Plus: Vishtèn

Three people on a stage. A woman, standing, plays accordion. A man, standing, plays fiddle. A woman, seated, plays octave mandolin.

Acadian band Vishtèn plays Canadian music with French and Celtic roots during a Homegrown Concert Series performance, March 21, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

In the Homegrown Plus series, we present Homegrown concerts that also had accompanying oral history interviews, placing both together in an easy-to-find blog post. (Find the whole series here!) We’re continuing the series with Vishtèn, an award winning Canadian band that performs both traditional and original Acadian music with rock energy. Their original “neo-traditional” compositions are based on the French, Scottish and Irish traditions brought by European settlers to Atlantic Canada in the 18th and 19th centuries. The trio is made up of multi-instrumentalists Emmanuelle and Pastelle LeBlanc from the Evangeline Region of Prince Edward Island, and Magdalen Islands native Pascal Miousse. These three artists are accomplished solo musicians as well.

Emmanuelle LeBlanc plays octave mandolin with Vishtèn on March 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Emmanuelle LeBlanc plays octave mandolin with Vishtèn on March 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Located off the north coast of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island is home to a small but thriving Francophone Acadian community with a rich tradition of song and instrumental music. Nearby, the even smaller archipelago of the Magdalen Islands (les Îles de la Madeleine) is predominantly Francophone, recognized for its distinctive French dialect songs and unique fiddling style. All three members of Vishtèn were raised in homes in which traditional music, percussive dance, and kitchen parties were part of everyday life. Together, they pay homage to their traditions and to the historic and strong musical connections between their two island Acadian communities.

Pascal Miousse plays fiddle with Vishtèn on March 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Pascal Miousse plays fiddle with Vishtèn on March 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

This concert was presented in celebration of International Francophone Culture Month with support from the Embassy of Canada.  Watch it in the player below!

I’m lucky enough to have visited Prince Edward Island several times, and was surprised to learn during the oral history that I first heard Vishtèn in concert there almost 20 years ago, when the band went by the name “Celtitude.” Under that name, the group showcased at the East Coast Music Awards in 2001, and I was covering the event for a magazine. Until the oral history interview, I hadn’t realized Vishtèn was a continuation of the same group.

A CD with the title "Celtitude" sits on a shelf of books.

A “shelfie” featuring an item from my personal archive. “Celtitude” demo CD from 2001. Celtitude was a previous name for the band Vishtèn.

In the oral history, I spoke with the members of Vishtèn about the history and traditions of French-language Acadian music in the Canadian Maritimes. We spoke about the relationships among Acadian traditions, their French antecedents, and their Québecois neighbors. We also spoke about their connections to Cajun culture in Louisiana, Cajuns being partly descended from French-speaking Acadians who left the Canadian Maritimes after the British took over from the French in 1755. Watch the oral history in the player below!

You can find both of these videos with more bibliographic information on the Library of Congress website, with the concert here at this link and the oral history at this link.

Read more about Vishtèn at their website.

Pastelle LeBlanc plays keyboard with Vishtèn on March 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

Pastelle LeBlanc plays keyboard with Vishtèn on March 21, 2019. Photo by Stephen Winick.

The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress.  For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.

2 Comments

  1. Kathy H
    March 20, 2020 at 6:54 pm

    SO wonderful, on a day when all the COVID – 19 news is grim, something to smile about
    Thank you!!!!

    • Stephen Winick
      March 20, 2020 at 11:46 pm

      Thanks for your comment–it means a lot! Our staff is dispersed and working from our homes, and life feels very strange, but what’s most important to us is to keep providing educational resources, information services, and traditional folk arts to the public.

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