2007 INTERNATIONAL PERCUSSION FESTIVAL
Robert J. Lewis
once said that a great city is only as great as its suburbs,
and the city of Montreal is no exception. Cross Jacques Cartier’s
much photographed bridge that spans the St. Lawrence River and
you’ll find yourself in historic
Longueuil, first settled in the late 1600ds.
the Montreal Jazz Festival ends in the first week of July, more
and more tourists, whose appetite for fun and music hasn't been
quenched, are looking to Longueuil to satisfy their thirst for
carnival and culture, or what Quebecers refer to as la joie
de vivre. The event that makes this possible is the 4-day
International Percussion Festival (Festival
International de Percussions de Longueuil), which appeals to
both urban and rural sensibilities, featuring an intoxicating
mix of fabulous rhythm and song.
festivities take place on St. Charles Street that is closed
to traffic for 5 blocks. Under colourful awnings (and of course
blue skies), the street’s many cafés and restaurants
move their tables and chairs outside, all with a view of Parc
St. Mark that functions like the people-friendly Mexican zocalo.
There, you'll find an always busy small stage, with the principal
stage looming tall in front of City Hall that abuts onto a quaint
fire hall. In
the block-long park, artisans and vendors unfold their tents
beneath towering trees that surround the quaint gazebo that
hosts spontaneous percussion jams and musical encounters of
Throughout the four days belly dancing, and various dance and
music competitions are featured as well as numerous diversions
for children. With the exception of the first day, the action
begins in the early afternoon, winding down after the main concert,
‘round midnight.’ In between scheduled events, strollers
can be seen taking advantage of the variety of bars and restaurants
that quickly fill up. The menus are nothing less than eclectic,
ranging from sushi, Szechuan/Thai/Chinese, Spanish, Lebanese,
Greek, Italian – and perhaps even a French restaurant
year’s festival paid tribute to the sensuous music and
rhythms of Brazil.
Paulo Ramos played the first main concert.
No stranger to Montreal, he moved here from Brazil 20 years
ago and has since recorded many albums and played the Montreal
Jazz Festival. His
highly sophisticated guitar work ranks him among the city’s
very best, on top of which he can sing like a nightingale and
groove with the best of them. Then again, I’ve never met
a Brazilian who couldn't dance. Paulo, along with several special
guests (Bia and Andiara), superbly encapsulated Brazil's unique
contribution to world music; he sang mostly original sambas
and bossa novas, while leaving room for percussion breaks that
kept the audience on its toes for the 90 minute show.
following night belonged to multi-talented, enchanting
Bia, who has it all: beauty, elegance, energy,
grace and stage presence second to none. Along
with a deftly controlled, rich voice, she can play guitar and
bass, and would be a professional dancer if she weren’t
a singer. Her playlist included lots of original material and
mesmerizing dance interludes with the foot-smooth and graceful
Marcos Oliviero. Bia just might be one big hit away from superstardom.
By the time she left the stage, she was everyone’s candidate
festival ended with a magnificent carnival parade that featured
a bevy of dancers displaying in equal parts extravagant costumes
--including lavishly feathered headdresses -- and lots of flesh.
From the waist down, you might have thought you were on one
of Rio’s beaches. When the parade concluded, the highly
skilled dance troupe that calls
Carnaval de Rio mounted the stage and put
on a show worthy of Vegas.
wonder Mayor Gladu was glad all over at the end of the four
days. The festival went off without a hitch thanks to a highly
competent team of organizers. Longueuilers are a proud, provincial
people who nonetheless speak with a big city accent, which means
they are exceptionally friendly, know how to have a good time
and are able to appreciate the finer things in life that are
always better when shared.
a summer happening that will count high among your pleasant
surprises, make Longueuil (one Metro stop after the Casino)
your next stop. Besides the annual percussion festival,
Parc St. Mark hosts evening
concerts every Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout the
summer. With St. Charles Street hopping, who needs the traffic
and noise of rue St. Denis?
350th Anniversary, Aug. 2nd, 2007, Parc Regional.