“…Effortlessly emotional,” is how Fred Lavery, an owner and producer at Lakewind Sound Studios, responded when asked about the Petit De Gras artist, recent winner of the East Coast Music award for Francophone Recording. When I asked Michelle how she overcame the language barrier, when playing to a largely anglophone audience, she replied, “When you play with such emotion…such authenticity…feelings are conveyed.” And it doesn’t hurt that Michelle Boudreau Samson can sing like a diva…some would say like an angel. Who needs to know the words, when the language of a musical old soul is revealed.
I spoke with Michelle over the phone after my return from Halifax. Not to belabour a point, but the info I received about the musical festival, the E.C.M.A., neglected to point out that there were two showcase venues. So I missed Michelle’s performance. It was just by a bit of luck that I happened to stumble upon the Mainstage showcase location; I didn’t know there was a varying degree of showcase talent.
Michelle felt that her showcase, although well received, lacked a certain element. Perhaps it was that the concert series, held at the Rebecca Cohn Auditorium, conflicted with the Mainstage performances. Or maybe it was that there were just so many musical events happening at once, no one could possibly take it all in.
Our talk therefore centered on what her life entailed…where she sees her music taking her. We spoke as her three boys played floor hockey above her head, their exuberance clearly carrying across the miles of wire. Joel, her oldest, has penned the words and music with Michelle on the recording of “Ta Voix,” released on Liberee, Michelle’s awarding winning, debut album. “Your Voice,” as it literally translates, stems from the influence of Fulbert Boudreau. Both daughter and grandson like to think the former player with the Sons of Pioneers, had somehow stirred the blood of his family, and steered them in their collaboration.
Initially, it all began when money was secured for a gathering in Cheticamp of Cape Breton Francophone artists. The hour long recording, due to the efforts of Angus Lefort, served as the foundation, the strength that was to become Michelle’s inspiration. She says, “the album…musically it is really deserving”… (of the ECMA win) …“with the quality of the performers.” Michelle felt lucky to have Clarence Deveau’s experience, as the album’s musical director, mixing the album. And of her showcase band, Michelle says she had come to trust the boys, Fred Lavery, Matt Foulds, Dave Burke, Allie Bennett and Dave McKeough, and she was left to do what she does best…communicate effortlessly, emotionally, with her audience.
The weekend of the East Coast Musical ten year celebrations, proved to be quite a busy time for Michelle. Friday found her a featured guest on the CBC radio show Mainstreet, and at night her voice joined the many on stage for the Cape Breton Rave Night. The Trade Show on Saturday landed a commitment from Michelle to play at the Acadian Kettle, held downtown, at noon. She even managed to fit in a few workshops, and pass out press kits to all who stopped and listened. That night, Michelle staged her showcase performance, and she was a presence to be felt, winning the audience with her captivating talent. Sunday she presented the African-Canadian Recording of the year award to Four The Moment, and accepted her trophy for Francophone artist with such joy. Two a.m. Monday morning, driving back to her day job teaching, Michelle was justly tired, but still anxious to see her kids, and begin her morning greeted by the excited congratulations from her students. Report cards and parent-teacher meetings were still days away.
Just where her connections will take her, be it Winnipeg or Quebec, or even a possible trip to France at the end of this summer, Michelle isn’t sure. She’d like to take a sabbatical from her teaching job, and tour with a Cape Breton fiddler; visiting our island, and perhaps even beyond. She has already begun recording at Lakewind Sound Studios her second album, featuring songs Michelle has written for the English language. After neglecting her music for fifteen years, Michelle is grateful that it has come back to her. She knows her life is full of riches, but the pride and sense of accomplishment she feels when performing, singing, writing, are special to her. And we who are fortunate to hear her, are richer in our own right. (photo: Murd Smith)