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«Charbonneau ou les valeurs à’ bonne place, volume 2»

The Charbonneau Commission was enacted in 2011 to investigate the corruption in the provision and management of public contracts in the construction industry in Québec. The famous Commission, chaired by Justice France Charbonneau, led to the resignation of the mayor Montréal and the guilty pleas of other high-ranking officials. Québecesque double bass player-composer Hugo Blouin, a proud French-speaking Québecoise, thought that it would be a good idea to arrange the colorful and insightful testimonies heard by the Commission of Inquiry on the Awarding and Management of Public Contracts in the Construction Industry as chansons for four-voice operatic choir with a chamber jazz band. «Charbonneau ou les valeurs à’ bonne place, volume 2» is, obviously, the second volume of these songs, more twisted and dense this time, and following the first volume that was released in 2018.

The second volume is released about ten years after the inception of the Commission’s work and offers a sharp ironic perspective on the scandals and outrageous corruptive schemes but also about the stories of the whistleblowers exposed during the testimonies. Somehow, these disconcerting scandals, corruption stories and terrible excuses («Chu pas Dieu», I’m not god, and after all, it is only «Une business», a business) sound much better than in real life when arranged for a joyful vocal quartet and a swinging chamber jazz band. The first volume claimed in Québecesque dialect that «Everything is truqué», i.e. rigged, and if so why not rig these scandals into absurdist chansons with an aroma of medieval operas? The last song «Bien dans ma peau» captures best this cleaver approach.

Blouin is interested in the melodies and rhythms found in concrete sounds, especially in spoken language. His arrangements for the six songs of «Charbonneau ou les valeurs à’ bonne place, volume 2» use fragments from the audio archive of the Commission and are tight, playful and carefully nuanced and employ the Québecesque language as tactile sound material that may be sculpted and played with. Blouin enjoys the company of several guests like guitarist René Lussier who shines with a searing, distorted solo on the opening «La belle grosse chaîne» (and adopted a similar approach to the Québecesque lingo on his seminal album from 1990, «Le Trésors de la langue»).

Eyal Hareuveni 

Hugo Blouin (b), Alex Dodier (s, fl), Jean-Philippe Godbout (dr), Julie Hamelin (alto), Julie Houle (tuba), Jean-Philippe Loignon (tenor), AndréAne Robichaud (soprano), Kathryn Samman (choir conductor), Jonathan Turgeon (p), Sarah Albu (soprano), David Cronkite (b), Gabriel Dharmoo (tenor), Elizabeth Lima (alto) René Lussier (g)  

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