Review by Carol Little
On July 7th, the all-female group Chiquésa, from the Acadian community of Prince Edward Island, La Région Évangéline, performed their first two-hour show to an enthusiastic crowd at the Jubilee Theatre in Summerside. Tanya Gallant (vocals, keys, bodhran), Caroline Bernard (vocals, keys), Christina Gallant-MacLean (vocals, bodhran, djembe), Julie Arsenault (vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, bodhran) and Anastasia DesRoches (fiddle, djembe) shimmered on-stage, all dressed in black under yellow and blue star shaped lights and a backdrop of blue and red; the colours of Acadie. The women moved through the performance with grace, giving the impression of seasoned professionals with an evident passion for music.
The multi-talented group awed the crowd with their traditional yet diverse musical sound employed by uniquely blending their own arrangements and rhythmical interpretation of Acadian and contemporary songs. Anastasia DesRoches describes Chiquésa’s sound as being “inspired by the traditional domain, but influenced by a multitude of styles including Celtic, blue grass and rock and roll.”
The women performed several songs written by Evangeline native Paul D. Gallant, as well as three original pieces by Jeanitta Bernard, member Caroline Bernard’s mother. The evening also showcased an a cappella performance by the four vocalists followed by a rousing step dancing standard by DesRoches, and even included some bilingual Island inspired comedy courtesy of a surprise guest appearance by Wayne Robichaux posing as the “mayor of Mont-Carmel,” who stated that he was honoured to perform with the musical group “Chicken Saw.”
The bilingual performance was not limited to a French speaking audience and the contagious toe tapping melodies, passion and humour had definite appeal and accessibility to spectators of various ages and languages. DesRoches describes the evening as “a fun show for anyone who enjoys Acadian music.”
Throughout the rich harmony singing, energetic fiddling, dance, and creative pairing of instruments such as fiddle with bass guitar, the women wore genuine smiles of excitement. They played their hearts out, as evidenced by the visibly ragged violin bowstrings.
The name Chiquésa is derived from an Acadian slang term meaning, “Who the heck is that?” and is quite appropriate for a group that may soon be turning heads. While they are only emerging in the public eye, the cheerful reception to Chiquésa’s recent performance gives the impression that they are about to burst out of obscurity to quickly become a Maritime favourite.
The group has no immediate plans to record a CD, but is not ruling out the possibility of a release in the future. For now, they are concentrating on developing their unique harmony sound and promoting their innovative live show.