Erwan Keravec FIMAV, Victoriaville QC, May 19
Published May 20, 2018Confronted with the prospect of listening to an hour-long concert of solo bagpipes, a certain look of apprehension might creep across your face. Understandable. But this is FIMAV, and the piper is a traditional Breton player who also happens to have credits in collaboration with other respected improvisers like Mats Gustaffson and Beñat Achiary. Let the piping begin.
And begin it does, somewhere behind the audience at the back of the high-ceilinged Église St-Christophe D'Arthabaska, as Keravec unleashes a mournful drone that winds around and over the pews. This opening section carries on a little too long, as he first uses a door or alcove as a natural mute for the instrument, the effect of which, sorry to say, reminded me of a mom vacuuming through other rooms while you're trying to watch television. Eventually Keravec finds the front of the church but continues to exploit his instrument's mobility, discovering the different possible reverb and tone options the altar area offers.
If nothing else, the audience learns, watching the artist, several aspects of how the bagpipes are tuned and detuned; how individual pipes can be muted, and how eerie and effective manipulating these elements can be, as Keravec creates standing waves and close harmonics. As one nearby audience member mentioned, the sound is a little like heralding the end times. Appropriate enough in the setting.
But at the close of the hour, while suitably impressed by the commitment and technique executed by Keravec, the stigma of the bagpipe isn't 100 percent lifted. Comparable perhaps to the "My Fair Lady" polish given to Audrey Hepburn in the movie of the same name, but in this case applied to a howler monkey.