CD Review: Baratin d’marins (Socan, 2022)

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Baratin d’marins
Seán Dagher, conductor, arranger; Pierre-Alexandre Saint-Yves, Alexander Kehler, Amanda Keesmaat, Kate Bevan-Baker, Éric Breton, Jean-François Daignault, Claire Gignac.
Socan, 2022

For its new album, La Nef has put together a repertoire of folksongs dedicated to seafarers. When one considers the numerous ship-related metaphors designating its past projects, it should not be that surprising to see yet another one appear in this offering. The Baratin d’marins, roughly translated as “seaman’s twaddle,” comprises a selection of songs dealing with the hardships of seamen from the north of France and Quebec who are confronted by the harshness of the elements and personal problems yet find a bit of solace in more  lighthearted moments. Such humour is a trait found in English drinking songs, or their Gallic counterparts known as chansons à boire et chansons gaillardes.The Nef’s crew and its able helmsman Seán Dagher cast its sails to ports of call as far apart as Saint-Malo, Valparaiso and San Francisco. For its simplicity, there is much poignancy to the music, as heard in the unaccomphanied renditions by the singer and storyteller Pierre-Alexandre Saint-Yves, or in a set of duos for nyckelharpa and bagpipes (Laridé vite), not to forget the trios for cello, zither and flute (Laridé lent). Another striking feature is the honesty of the singing, with the choir very much in tune and enhanced by the voice of Jean-François Daigenault. For all of its virtues, this recording will require a little effort to get into. Listeners will surely have to understand that some selections in this atypical program may speak to them more than others. Personal favourites here are Baie Sainte-Anne and Belle Virginie for their emotional character, Marin corsaire and La Crassue for their lightheartedness, and Le capitaine de Saint-Malo for the perfectly blended crescendo of voices. Without diminishing any of the album’s merits, the best way to experience this music is live, as was the case on March 10 at the Notre-Dame-du-Bonsecours Chapel in Montreal: those in attendance were offered the best opportunity to dive even deeper into the music and be imbued by its spirit.

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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About Author

Justin Bernard est détenteur d’un doctorat en musique de l’Université de Montréal. Ses recherches portent sur la médiation musicale, notamment par le biais des nouveaux outils numériques, ainsi que sur la relation entre opéra et cinéma. Membre de l’Observatoire interdisciplinaire de création et de recherche en musique (OICRM), il a réalisé une série de capsules vidéo éducatives pour l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Justin Bernard est également l’auteur de notes de programme pour le compte de la salle Bourgie du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal et chargé de cours à l’Université de Sherbrooke. Par ailleurs, il anime une émission d’opéra et une chronique musicale à Radio VM (91,3 FM).

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