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The 2005 Festival voix d’ameriques:
reviewing the voices of the Americas

part 1 of a 3-part review filed 15 March 2005 | Montreal
reviewed by Fortner Anderson
photography courtesy Luc Vallières

The 4th annual "Festival voix d’ameriques" (FVA) takes place in Montreal, the second week of February. It’s usually a cold time in Montreal and when temperatures outside drop to –20 Centigrade, the cold penetrates into the performance halls and the audience keep their coats on. The festival runs seven nights at two venues on the Main: the Casa del Popolo and the La Salla Rossa.

The Main or "Avenue St. Laurent" represents a historical and cultural fault line in Montreal, dividing the city geographically and culturally. The east side of town is French and the west is English. Over the last century, waves of Jewish, Portuguese and Spanish immigrants have washed up the Main to settle between the two solitudes of the French and English communities. When times got better, they moved on in-turn to the sprawling suburbs surrounding the island.

One of the festival venues, La Sala Rossa, a former Spanish social club, was a worker’s cultural centre in the 1930’s, a heritage from Montreal’s Jewish socialist past. It’s an appropriate venue for this festival which purposefully upsets genres, fuses together languages and communities, and brings them together on stage to test the public’s capacities for diversity.

Tony Trembley
Tony Trembley hosted "le shift de nuit" at the 2005 Festival voix d’ameriques.
(photo: Luc Vallières)

The FVA is put together through the indefatigable efforts of its General and Artistic Manager, D. Kimm. She’s a Quebecoise poet with four books, a performer in "le Band des poètes", and cultural organizer who has in three years transformed the FVA into an event that occupies the imagination of Montreal in the dark weeks of February.

This year all major media covered the event, local poet Kaie Kellough and singer Chloé Sainte-Marie appeared on the covers of the Montreal weeklies, there were photo spreads in the English and French papers, and several events were recorded for national radio broadcast over the CBC Radio One and its French counterpart Radio-Canada. Each year the festival multiplies taking on new events and impossible challenges both of which D.Kimm welcomes with a soul of a barnstormer, risking all for the sake of an extraordinary spectacle.

Over the week, the festival presents over sixty events; there’s poetry, storytelling, the spoken-word, song and dance in French, English, Spanish and Innu. Events start at 5:00 PM at the Casa del Popolo and go late.

"Le shift de nuit" (the Night Shift) is an open-mic where trembling neophytes present work for the first time alongside Quebec’s most revered and often very drunk poets who are led through the grey haze to the small stage by host and poet Tony Trembley. He presided over packed rooms, accelerated by much beer and endless cigarettes which filled the space with a thick smoke that lingered in the hair and clothes well into the day after. Tony kept everyone upright and on-time while his house duo provided appropriate noise and ambience. This year the houses were regularly full and crowds were turned away at several events.

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