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Shows at 8:30 pm

The Festival Voix d’Amériques (The FVA) always takes a dare. This year’s program features eight powerful shows with voices and performances that left the mainstream a long time ago. The FVA faithful will be glad to know the classics are back, including Body and Soul and the Combat contre la langue de bois.

February 1

8:30 pm

John Giorno solo

In English. John Giorno is without a doubt one of the leading figures in performance poetry. In a career spanning more than fifty years, he has helped establish Spoken Word as an art form in its own right, one that demands commitment, constant bodywork to express tone, and method. His last Montreal appearance was in 1996. This time he will read in the intimacy of the Sala Rossa. At 72, Giorno is as passionate as ever, but serenity has replaced some of the impetuousness of youth. The same compelling energy, but now with humour and tenderness.

Watching Giorno perform can feel like a physical encounter, so we suggested he team with an equally visceral musician. Violinist Malcolm Goldstein has described improvisation as “the whole musician sounding”. He’s been doing virtuoso live improv for some forty years, using the instrument as an extension of the body to explore sound texture and resonance in a particularly immersive way. John Cage wrote a piece for him, as did Ornette Coleman but he’s been hard to get into the studio. Be sure to catch him here.

But wait, there’s more! The FVA always tries to give its audiences that little extra, a small epiphany they won’t find anywhere else. We asked singer/songwriter/musician Thomas Hellman to put some Giorno texts to music. Thomas has always had one foot in the U.S. and another in France while his heart stayed behind in Montreal, so he’s perfectly positioned for this blind date with Giorno. He’ll be joined on stage by his old pal, Olaf Gundel.

February 2

8:30 pm

John Giorno, meet Montréal

In French. We can’t let John Giorno go home without introducing him to some of our best French-language poets. It’s also an opportunity to revive the intensity of those evenings where poets put their texts and voices — but also their silences, fears, hesitations and shamelessness — to music. The poets we’re expecting are all superb writers, winners of dozens of awards. But mainly they’re completely at home on stage (they’ve been taking the plunge for years). With Louise Dupré, Élise Turcotte, François Charron, Jean-Marc Desgent, Jean-Paul Daoust and Geneviève Letarte.

Of course, if we want this encounter to come off, we need musicians. The alert kind. The ones who know it’s not about adding a bit of colour to the words, it’s about connecting with the energy, the rhythm and the breath. In this department, we’ll be “en Cadillac” as they say, with Bernard Falaise, Michel F Côté and Fred Boudreault. They’re old friends of the FVA and we never get tired of listening to them. The host for the evening will be Zen poet José Acquelin. John Giorno will also read, and then hear French versions of his work delivered by local poets.

Never been to a poetry night? Or if you have, were you disappointed? A word of advice. Don’t miss this one.

February 3

8:30 pm

John Giorno, meet Canada

In English. John Giorno meets a few pillars of Canadian spoken word. We’re battening down the hatches for poet/performer Sheri-D Wilson (Calgary); singer/musician Mark Berube (a little Vancouver, now a lot more Montreal); talespinner Ivan Coyote (some Vancouver, often on tour, heart in her native Yukon); poet Erin Mouré (born Calgary, settled Montreal); storyteller/performer Catherine Kidd (originally Vancouver, now Montreal); performer/throat singer Taqralik Partridge (born Nunavik, living in Montreal); and the fresh young voice of Valerie Khayat (Italian mother, Lebanese father), a poet/singer from next-generation-Montreal, bilingual and multi-everything. It promises to be a unique and eclectic evening. Not unlike this country.

Our host will be Fortner Anderson, first winner of “The Voice Electric Award” presented by Les Filles électriques and Wired on Words. FVA guest of honour John Giorno will perform with his usual high spirits.

This “coast-to-coast-to-coast” evening will be facilitated by our high-flying crew of supersonic musicians Bernard Falaise, Diane Labrosse and Malcolm Goldstein.

The show will be recorded by CBC Radio One, produced by Katherine Gombay.

February 4

8:30 pm

La Salle des pas perdus

Bilingual. For this occasion only, at Ex-Centris

In response to popular demand, we’re remounting a show we took to Berlin for the Poetry Festival in June 2007. In the usual poetry evening poets take turns on stage, but in this show they never leave. That forces them to do something with their “performance body”, and the result is remarkable ensemble work. These are artists with some serious poetry stagecraft after all. Performance all-star Alexis O’Hara marries cabaret weirdness and experimental sound. Writer-editor-columnist Michel Vézina was for many years a circus artist. Fortner Anderson, growing into his own intensity, raises the risk factor with every show. D. Kimm, meanwhile, continues to walk the tightrope of fragility.

Our wordsmiths have found some extraordinary companions in this venture. Marvellous Brazilian-born dancer Luciane Pinto shows us the body can speak, while resourceful responsive Bernard Falaise and Michel F Côté put up a musical backboard (sometimes it’s a net) for performers flinging themselves into empty air. Now add the ambient visuals of Brigitte Henry, the delicate lighting of Claude Cournoyer, and the faultless sound mix of Bernard Grenon.

It’s an uncategorizable show, and it’s booked into the Cassavetes theatre. You probably didn’t know there was a fabulous stage hidden behind the screen. For opening that door to the underground and taking a risk on words, Ex-Centris, we salute you.

A co-production of Les Filles électriques and Ex-Centris — Série Boulevard Saint-Laurent

February 5

8:30 pm

Body and Soul 5

Bilingual. As we all know, Les Filles électriques likes a girl who goes too far. You know the kind we mean — over the top, takes up a lot of room. For some time now, our Artistic Director has been wondering about a few things. Like, why does it get so complicated when a woman puts her body on stage? Why is a female always judged on her physical aspects/assets — especially when she dares to perform? She’s too fat or too skinny. She moves too much or not enough. She’s too sexy — or she isn’t. For five years, the Body and Soul show has brought in girls with enormous physicality, girls who take charge, girls who are “hot”. This year is extra special.

In Part One, two Montrealers. Giselle Numba One, the hot number from Hot Springs we’ve been burning to invite back. Expression pedals, glockenspiel, flute, melodica, rhythm box, kalimba… you name it, she plays it! Hers is a new kind of esoteric hip-hop. And Donzelle, the impertinent rapper with the naughty mouth, who will keep us grooving with her Janet-Jacksonesque dancers. Bonus: she’s half-Portuguese and may slip in a little Luso.

In Part Two, it’s American singer/musician Baby Dee and her band. A gender-blending, harp-playing former circus artist, she’s all out there. Born in Cleveland, Baby Dee learned piano as a child, and by 19 had acquired her first harp, supporting herself in fairs and freak shows disguised as a bear, on a tricycle or with her music. A huge physical presence, she sings folk ballads Brecht would approve, swinging from romance to burlesque. She has worked with Antony (& the Johnsons) and Marc Almond, and tours internationally, but her one visit to Montreal was slightly clandestine. Don’t miss this one.

February 6

8:30 pm

Jérôme Minière: la vérité sur les arbres

Jérôme Minière with the complicity of musician Guido Del Fabbro

Projections and visuals Dan Popa and Marie-Pierre Normand


In French. Jérôme Minière is a funny one. A bright, sensitive sound hacker who might qualify as “Certifiably Shy”. We like him a lot, and we gave him free rein for this show. He decided to work up something well off the beaten track of pop (incursions into off-road sonic ground?). Expect stories, speech, legends, action (though less than Rambo, say), sounds and oh yes, songs. Diving into the brush with him will be Guido del Fabbro on song/sound, with Dan Popa and Marie Pierre Normand on action/vision/décor. And he will be telling us the truth about trees.

February 7

8:30 pm

Combat contre la langue de bois, Round Four

Hosted by Jacques Bertrand

With: Brigitte Haentjens (stage director), René-Daniel Dubois (dramaturge), Jean-Marc Massie (conteur), Geneviève Rochette (actress), Marie-Louise Arsenault (journalist), Serge Bouchard (anthropologue), Louis Champagne (actor), Évelyne de la Chenelière (dramaturge), Queen KA (slameuse), Mado Lamotte (reine du kitsh)

Interventions musicales et mise à mort des discours trop longs: Fred Fortin, Olivier Langevin, Robbie Kuster


In French. Six minutes. No right of reply. You’re really going to get a piece of their mind. Every year we have to cram a few more chairs into the Sala to accommodate the crowds. Our combat against the cliché has become something of a cult event. Jacques Bertrand, head honcho of Macadam Tribu, will once again host all you people out there who are sick to death of the loop of boneheaded waffling we hear in the public square. And you’re not going to take it anymore!

Wafflers, prepare to bite the dust! With Brigitte Haentjens (passionately engaged stage director), René-Daniel Dubois (playwright/never at a loss for words), Jean-Marc Massie (voluble storyteller: we’ve got a shot clock with his name on it), Geneviève Rochette

(actor/humorist/not averse to a bit of gossip), Marie-Louise Arsenault (journalist/no minced words), Serge Bouchard (strangest of anthropologists), Louis Champagne (actor/sociable tavern-dweller), Evelyne de la Chenelière (playwright/keen observer of humans), Queen KA (young slammer with quite a mouth on her), and Mado Lamotte (queen of kitsch — an unusual guest for the FVA, huh? Don’t we know it.)

We’re hoping to avoid an audience KO, so we asked musical referees Fred Fortin, Olivier Langevin and Robbie Kuster to step in if it goes too long. And host Jacques Bertrand? Phlegmatic, sarcastic as ever, he’s moved up a weight category. In the office, we’re calling him “Steak”.

February 8

8:30 pm

Cabaret DADA

Bilingual + invented languages. From 1916 to 1925, the Dadaists challenged the conventional limits of ideology, fine arts and politics — like us. They rejected propriety, reason and logic — like us. They loved extravagance and the freedom to create — like us. Most of all, they were looking for freedom in language, which they preferred poetic and oddly assorted. Like us!!!

Our Closing Night Show will take the form of a DADA Cabaret worthy of our dadaist precursors. Indeed, this 7th FVA has a particular soft spot for history. We began with John Giorno, who’s been doing performance poetry for 50 years. We end with a tribute to those fathers and mothers of performance, a show in purest dada style. We trolled Montreal for the strangest fish we could find and told them anything goes, text to costumes. The resulting cast is outrageous (not to say hysteric queer insolent extreme improbable). Down with reason, up with extravagance! In a moment of typical dada folly, we’ve held the ticket price down to $15 for this madly historical show.

Featuring, Nathalie Claude, Stéphane Crête, Pascal Angelo Fioramore, Miriam Ginestier, Marcelle Hudon, Dayna McLeod, Carole Nadeau, Dominique Pétrin, Alexandre St-Onge and Simon Brown. Our host for the evening will be the always surprising Alexis O’Hara, and we’ve hired the prettiest and tallest cigarette girl in the world, Lucas Jolly. With the silent, black-and-white queer(!) projections of Miriam Ginestier, starring adventuress Fannie Nipplebottom, and the dadaistic videos of Mike Stecky.