For anyone who has studied medieval French literature, the name Montcorbier may be a familiar one. Francois de Montcorbier, better known as Francois Villon, was a dashing and powerful troubadour poet who lived sometime between 1431 and 1463. This highly romantic figure escaped death three times, but was eventually hanged. The crime? He fell in with a band of coquillards, or thieves, who ravaged the French countryside shortly after the 100 Years’ War. Now, exactly what has this French history lesson have anything to do with the Cotati Accordion Festival? Well, nothing really, except that the band of the same name, Montcorbier, will be playing here on Sunday.
Montcorbier is apptly named, however, because they bring to the stage the rich, romantic sounds in the French/Breton tradition. Yet the band’s virtuosity reaches beyond the traditional, encompassing New Orleans jazz, the baroque compositions of Johann Sebastian Bach, and nostalgic waltzes played on an old, dusty piano. As you listen to their most recent recording, Le Piano de Sarah, you realize that Montcorbier displays the energy of a rock group, the finesse of a classical string quartet, and the romanticism of a gypsy band, all composed on French traditional instruments.
Daniel Thonon, founder of the French band, Advielle Que Pourra, plays the hurdy-gurdy, the diatonic accordian, the bouzouki, the French bagpipes (also known as biniou koz), the Breton bombarde, the flutes and the oboe. His music has taken him all over the world, and to very different arenas, including a stint on the hurdy-gurdy with rock band Pink Floyd. Nicolas Boulerice, who was also a member of Advielle, is a pianist and percussionist. Oliver Demers plays the violin, the guitar, the bouzouki and the mandolin, as well as the hurdy-gurdy. Together they create an experience that can certainly be called poetic, lending credence to the association with their namesake.