Too freezing to play Ukulele? - Rimouski, Québec

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Too freezing to play Ukulele? - Rimouski, Québec

 
 
 

Sometimes, no matter how musical you feel, and how much you're used to walking/singing around with your uke in hand, the cold wins; "it's far too freezing to play ukulele".

That's definitely the case in Rimouski, by the icy banks of the gusty St Laurent River in Québec. Not only is it far colder than what you imagine the coldest place on the planet feels like, but snow storms might just suprise you at any moment.

However, for the diehard bard, there's a workaround. "Just put your gloves on, that will do quite nicely".

 
 

It's impossible to train your fingers to resist the harsh cold winds of North-Western Gaspesia "... they'll turn blue and surely fall off before the second refrain". 

Much more realistic is to train yourself to play with skiing gloves.

"Just major chords here in Rimouski", because due to the super-complicated technique - sticking out one single finger on the left hand and just moving up and down the ukulele - you can only play major chords. Except for an A (minor) "But it's okay it's not that tricky anyway".

When it's below 0 degrees Kelvin, as it is, most Winters on the beaches here, you don't sit around inside complaining anyway. You (snow-)suit up, get out there, and leave the whining and the minor chords to people in warmer climates.

Everything with gloves and a ukulele, just sounds rainbow-y and so very merry. I don't think there's much more I can do, I could change the key, (insert change of Key here), but I'll just go with the woop-di-doos (actually, cancel it) - woop-di-doo, woop-di-doo, woop-di-doo...
The other side of the camera on the banks of le Saint Laurent. A wild ukulele huddles in the grass nearby.

The other side of the camera on the banks of le Saint Laurent. A wild ukulele huddles in the grass nearby.

 

The wider point being, I guess, that "boredom is a luxury, like memes that say 'oh FML!' and a suite of minor chords, but in the North", well, as some locals mentioned to me, you just get on with it, really. And if in other countries, you'd stay home because of a temperature half this cold outside, here, you deal with it and go out anyway, otherwise you'll never step outdoors ever again.

If you want to learn more about the town of Rimouski from the locals, head over to the Rimouski Ukulele Road Trips podcast! [coming soon-ish]. It's got two locals, exactly as many jokes, and songs too.

Une soupe au "Bercail" ! That's at the cool co-op near the Cathedral, in case you're just on your way through the cold winds to the center of town too.

Une soupe au "Bercail" ! That's at the cool co-op near the Cathedral, in case you're just on your way through the cold winds to the center of town too.

 

No need to be too fanatical and brave, and after a sing-along on the freezing beaches, a warm onion soup is a most comforting treat.

Speaking of warm comfort, you can support the trip over on the Patreon, which is a bit like showing appreciation with thumbs up, except on Patreon, it's not only nice, it's useful.

The #GoingNorth adventure is made possible with a helping string from the folks at Cloud Music ukuleles whose ukes withstand pretty low temperatures quite well as it turns out.

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'L'instant' - Gaspé, Québec

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'L'instant' - Gaspé, Québec

 
 
 

We humans are a funny bunch. For many reasons, but one in particular was distracting me as I was making my way from Percé to Gaspé, on the Eastern shores of the Gaspésie Peninsula.

A mode of transport to go with the grey #GoingNorth Road Trip

A mode of transport to go with the grey #GoingNorth Road Trip

 

You may have noticed this yourself, we think ahead a lot, and we think backwards quite a bit too. Worrying about the future, or dwelling on what was. And, the 'moment', 'l'instant', eludes us. Thinking is great, but when it is taking your mind off the grey and majestic landscapes of Gaspésie, it's a pain in the ... brain.

Some light snow to add to the beauty of the very Eastern shore of Gaspesia

Some light snow to add to the beauty of the very Eastern shore of Gaspesia

 

Set the scene. Everything is grey and beautiful (very much like this particular Ukulele Road Trip. It's grey too anyway). A couple drives through this inspiring picture, more concerned about the holiday photo-album than the feeling of freedom the landscape quietly offers.

On tourne un peu en rond, tout se mélange et confond, peut-être qu'en fait au fond, on ne sait pas ce qui compte. On poursuit l'aujourd'hui, tout le long de la Gaspésie, et s'il s'était enfui, cet aujourd'hui ?

Going round in circles slighlty, everything does become a blur, maybe in truth, we know not what does matter. We search for today, all along Gaspesia, what if it had run away, this elusive today ?

 
 

Allez, viens avec moi, ne cherchons pas de quoi remplir en rentrant, des albums dans les tiroirs, mourants! Allez, viens avec moi, savourons ensemble et chacun dans la brume du Saint Laurent, l'instant.

Hark, come with me, let us not search what to bring back, and have it wither and die in a draw back home. Hark, come with me, let us delight together, and each one of us, in the mist of the Saint Laurent, in the moment.

by the way, take a brief moment to share this song and drop a comment/clickedilike - or this page will stay like the background of the song in Gaspesia: deserted

À GASPÉ

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In the video, behind the man with the little guitar and just before the beautiful rounded low mountains in the background, lies the town of Gaspé. Or Gespeg if you're an indigenous Mi'kmaq. Which, let's face it, you probably aren't. 

The town of Gaspé is the setting for the fanciest museum you'll find in these parts: the 'Musée de la Gaspésie'.

In English, this roughly translates as "Museum of Gaspesia" (although subtleties of language make a literal translation tricky)

In English, this roughly translates as "Museum of Gaspesia" (although subtleties of language make a literal translation tricky)

 

I arrived by chance during the seasonal in-door hand-made market. You couldn't wish for a better view whilst shopping for mugs and handmade stained glass. I'm travelling on a budget so I had a traditional Gaspesian... er, coffee.

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Things you may learn in this museum include what a traditional native tipi looks like. It looks a bit like the ones set up as decorative memorials on the banks of the modern city.

But you may also learn about the locals and their struggles, that had been having a relaxing time walking around freely for 9000 years, until the Europeans turned up.

LES MI'KMAQ ET LES ACADIENS

The coast of Gaspesia where I am now, is a very important historical place for the country as a whole. It is where the Europeans first set foot, and first started to build settlements. The story of it all isn't exactly natives vs. Europeans, though. It's a bit more interesting than that.

There were two main groups of native Americans in the region, the Mi'kmaq, which we've mentioned before, and the Acadiens; who sound a bit like badies in a Doctor Who episode. The Mi'kmaq are more the hunting type, connected with the land and nomadic in their lifestyle. The Acadiens on the other hand were leaning more towards farming and livestock. Whenever a war broke out in the XVIIIth Century between the British and the French (who live right next to each other in Europe by the way, but would rather fight not too close to home), the Mi'kmaq sided with their friends the French, whereas  the Acadiens tended to side with the British.

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The Mi'Kmaq didn't much like the British and always struggled to accept their occupation, when the peninsula was under their control. So much so that when the friendly French captured British soldiers, the French had to give them special surveillance, even sometimes keep them on their ships, so that the Mi'Kmaq would not go ahead and "sacrifice" them. Too much zeal is sometimes not the way.

Unfortunately, in 1760, the French lost, left for good, and more and more of the Mi'kmaq lands were given to the Acadiens. The Acadiens kept complaining the Mi'Kmaq were not good at planning enough, depending on "nature" and "wild fruits" and "hunting" and other crazy things no one who enjoys a good Starbucks would ever give a second thought for. Things were said. Feelings were hurt. This created a lot of tension, and a loss of Mi'Kmaq hunting and fishing territories. Luckily, the British had a great answer to these issues after a while: they simply took away the rights, and most of the lands, of both the Acadiens, and of the Mi'kmaq. Problem solved. A bit like harsh parenting, but, one that destroys identity and violates indigenous rights.

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Do I have a song about this? No. But if I don't mention it here, I'm not sure I ever will.

And thanks for the magazine on Mi'Kmaq history, girl who works at the museum and with whom I had a chat about Gaspesia during my coffee !

Thanks for reading ! And viewing! And having made it all the way down here!

If you think this odd website of this Backpacking French Ukulele guy is a good thing to have in the world, you can support the project via this Patreon page. If you don't think it's a good thing, obviously, don't do it.

The nice people at Cloud Music Ukuleles  are making these "Moments" and "les instants" of the #GoingNorth adventure possible. Have a moment on their website for some ukulele-(window)-shopping.

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How to canon - Percé, Québec

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How to canon - Percé, Québec

There's lots to discover and marvel at in the beautiful region of Gaspésie. From walking through a quiet and deserted national park at night, to admiring big pierced rocks from the shore, it's got it all. Well, it's got some of it. It's got nature, and a quite cold sea. So that's something.

Up a frosty road where everything almost went terribly wrong with my toyota's summer tyres. But didn't. Ouf!

Up a frosty road where everything almost went terribly wrong with my toyota's summer tyres. But didn't. Ouf!

It's definitely got it history-wise, with the indigenous Mi'kmaqs hunting and fishing on these lands for melleniums. And then come the eventful "discovery" period of these lands by European explorers such as every Québec-er's favourite Jacques, Jacques Cartier.

"MMMmh..." ponders J.C. "I wonder when I'll feature in a song"

"MMMmh..." ponders J.C. "I wonder when I'll feature in a song"

 

Considering how interesting these topics seem, there's a fair chance I'll have the pleasure of talking about these in the upcoming Ukulele Road Trips Blog posts. But for now, I wanted to show you around backstage of the adventure. That way, if anybody else wants to write and record on a beach a multi-voice historical inspired ukulele piece, you'll know how it's done.

Because you might now also want to write a XVIth Century French-styled three part canon sang from the point of view of a cartographer appointed by the King of France to find a path to Asia through the cold valleys of Québec. It just might happen you feel like it!

So if this happens, this is how to you could go about it.

BEHIND THE SCENES

1. The air that lives there

First comes the visit of the location, and breathing the air that lives there. Personal experience of the location of your topic is paramount to your inspiration.

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Having had a look around, and sat in the wind and the mild sun looking at the pierced rock for a bit you may start to feel inspired. But once you feel freezing, because it's Québec in Winter, of course you'll rush back to the rental car and switch the engine on to get some heating. Rub your hands together and blow in them once the engine turns on, for dramatic effect.

Even in the automobile, the use of the winter hat is recommended. A Icelandic Zo-on if you're wondering...

Even in the automobile, the use of the winter hat is recommended. A Icelandic Zo-on if you're wondering...

 

2. First notes

There, in the comfort of your Toyota, you may start improvising and getting historical characters coming to you in ghostly visions. That's not what happened to me though. Thank God. However, It did surprise me a lot that I ended up writing a XVIth century style canon. So if ever you notice your composition taking on the style of a century very relevant to the place you are visiting, don't worry, it's because of the air that lives there and that your did breathe.

You might want to use the left over 22% of your laptop's battery to figure out how the different melodies will work out together. But be quick, without a power outlet anywhere near, time is ticking!

tic toc tic toc...

 

3. Practice makes perfect... -ish

Then you must rehearse your canon. It's not easy to learn, let alone compose, but a couple of hours should do the trick. If that doesn't work, try writing every part of the catch (or "canon") on separate postcards that you thought you were going to send, but nobody bought any from the homepage. Things work out the way they do for a reason ya'know.

XVIth century style duck-face - with accompanying manuscripts

XVIth century style duck-face - with accompanying manuscripts

 

4. Shooting the canon

Action! Yes, after having tried spots with too much wind or not enough of a view, you must now walk down the land of a private property, hoping nobody's home, and slide down a part of the cliff that's not too steep, with your ukulele and your camera stand in hand(s).

Then just make sure you record the second and third part in perfect synchronicity with the first one, trying to not make too many mistakes (count a few attempts), hoping that the wind and the changing weather don't muck up your audio and video too much...

One,

One,

Two, ...

Two, ...

Three !

Three !

And, Voilà !

Not that much to it is there. Only a few days of head scratching, editing, assembling and such left. Peanuts. Or as Samuel would say, "quel Micmac!" ("What a jumble of all sorts of things, and what would my King make of this I ask you? And how do you even edit three separate films into one canony two minutes??").

Looking back onto he road to Percé.

Looking back onto he road to Percé.

Thanks for reading ! And viewing. Maybe even listening.

If you enjoy these "behind-the-scenes" snippets of my adventures, you can click around on my Patreon page and get exclusive updates, like this one !

The nice people at Cloud Music Ukuleles  are making this canon-ing adventure #GoingNorth possible, have a musical stroll around their boutique if you're looking to buy a uke or equipment!

Fire your thoughts and canon-y comments in the section below! And I you feel so inclined, do share the content of this website on those big Social Media things, and, most of all, at family dinners. You can click on "share" just underneath here.

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The Pierced Isle - Percé, Québec

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The Pierced Isle - Percé, Québec

Fire the historical canon! Strike a match, and light the gunpowder of ukulele time travel!

Well done. You have now fired the historical canon. But you must know, it is not an actual canon, with big wheels and a loud BANG. It is a musical historical canon, where different melodies fit on top of each other in a (hopefully) pleasing way, sang by a historical character, who happens to play the uke.

Enter the stage, Samuel de Champlain! The man who named stuff in Québec.

This explorer travelled through Québec about 70 year after its earlier French "discovery" and in 1603, named a beautiful and uncommon pierced rock "The Pierced Isle" ("l'Isle Percée") upon his finding. Listen to Samuel take the beach across from it as his stage, and sing his joy upon glimpsing this fine rock

 
 
Moi Samuel, j'ai trouvé cette isle, percé le secret des côtes au fil des aventures et des claques,
"I Samuel I have found this isle, pierced the secret of the coasts along my adventures and hardships,"

Thanks for the melody Samuel.

there is no accurate portrait of Samuel, so all you're getting is a bit of his handwriting.

there is no accurate portrait of Samuel, so all you're getting is a bit of his handwriting.

 

Samuel de Champlain, born on the coast of France, would be the navigator and cartographer to name and map out a lot of the coast of Québec, including the banks of the river St Laurent. However, his claim to fame in Québec hearts is more linked with him being appointed Vice-Roy of New France (Nouvelle-France, a name he came up with, smart fellow).

Map made by Sam in 1612 which includes lots of drawings, which is nice. As you can see, at the time, the boats used to be really huge in comparison with the size of the land. Click to expand and use it instead of a GPS.

 

Acting as governor, he pushed many years for the establishment of a French colony from the pierced isle onward. At the end of his life in 1635 he finally started to see his dream materialise. A second birth of the French crown as its people settled across the ocean.

I have found the pierced Isle which shineth, finally my solace, my second birth

I'm not big on titles, but personally, if I were ever to get one, I really hope it's Vice-Roy of New-France. Sounds fantastic. And New-France (or Québec as it's now called) is really quite nice as you can see.

The Gaspésie coast in the morning light, on the way to the pierced rock of Percé

The Gaspésie coast in the morning light, on the way to the pierced rock of Percé

 
"le territoire des sauvages Mi-kmaqs, c'est la terre promise, Tabarnak!"
"the land of the savages Mi'kmaqs, it's the promised land, [untranslatable]!"

Of course we say that French explorers discovered Canada and Québec. But really, that's a bit of an odd one, because, there were already people there! That always annoyed me at school.

The local "savages", as depicted by Samuel de Champlain. It's the same map, but you noticed that. I zoomed in for your comfort.

The local "savages", as depicted by Samuel de Champlain. It's the same map, but you noticed that. I zoomed in for your comfort.

 

These "savages" are the Mi'kmaqs, or the Mi'gmaq as they call themselves. And they were here slightly before my French countrymen. About 10,000 years, when humans crossed over from the other side of the continent, via Siberia. And so they already had their own names for places by 1603, including one for the stage of the canon: Sigsôg, litterally "steep rocks". Who doesn't like a nice obvious simple name?

On the banks of Sigsôg, a ukulele has a deserved little rest.

On the banks of Sigsôg, a ukulele has a deserved little rest.

 

since you're here,

I hope you enjoyed this post and song, 

If you did , you can show your support to Ukulele Road Trips on Patreon with just 1$/month and be a Patron of this unusual joyful adventure along coastlines and hardships.

The nice people at Cloud Music Ukuleles  are making this canon-ing adventure #GoingNorth possible, have a click around if you're looking to buy a brand new ukulele

Fire your thoughts and canon-y comments in the section below!

Driving away from the canon's scene. If you look closely to the bit of land in the middle, you can notice a small arch under the isle on the left side, an arch that gives it's name to Samuel's "pierced isle"

Driving away from the canon's scene. If you look closely to the bit of land in the middle, you can notice a small arch under the isle on the left side, an arch that gives it's name to Samuel's "pierced isle"

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Late Night in Gaspésie's National Park - Québec, Canada

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Late Night in Gaspésie's National Park - Québec, Canada

Night. Sleep. Silence. Everything quiets down in the Winter months in Québec, and as you cross Gaspésie's National Park at night, it does feel like the whole region is fast asleep.

Not a moose in sight

Not a moose in sight

 

A moment to reflect and to offer a lullaby to sleepers from other time zones. In the vast and completely deserted National Park of the Québec Peninsula, the feeling that the whole world is in a deep sleep, sets in.

You're very much like these trees [fast asleep], Six time-zones away from these [melodies], may they find you [in your dreams]

Let your Rêveries, and your peaceful slumber, be scented with words from your dearest lover,

 
 

Comme le sommeil infin [de Gaspésie], si paisible si loin d'ici, rêve de moi ou de mots [qu'je t'ai dit]

"Like the infinite slumber of Gaspésie, so peaceful, so far from here, dream of me or of words I shared with you."

A peninsula, if you're not familiar with the term, is a area of land, not quite an island but still surrounded by a lot of water. And East (and North) of Québec City, lies the huge almost-island that is Gaspésie.

A view of the night-time coast-line south of the National Park.

A view of the night-time coast-line south of the National Park.

 

This region of Québec is actually bigger than the country of Belgium, and that's where these ukuleles are carrying on their Northern Adventure. Gaspésie. Not Belguim. And in the heart of it, right where Brussels should be, only trees, light snow, and the company of a few rivers, and entertainingly, a ukulele or two.

On a big adventure, ukulele needs rest too

On a big adventure, ukulele needs rest too

 

You can support Ukulele Road Trips on Patreon

The nice people behind Cloud Music Ukuleles  are making this adventure #GoingNorth and its lullabies possible

Share your thoughts and sleepy feelings in the comments below !

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