A few months back, a great musical event was unfolding in Montreal, Canada: I am referring to the release of a brand new CD by one superb Haitian soprano singer named Chantal Lavigne, accompanied by an equally superb classical Haitian pianist named David Bontemps.
The uniqueness of the CD resides not only in the quality of the music and the musicians, but also in the theme of the CD entitled “Offrandes vaudouesques”, a title which originates from the well-known Haitian musicologist Claude Dauphin who, in the liner notes, describes how he came up with the title. He could not have been more correct.
“Offrandes vaudouesques” is a collection of the wonderful compositions by the internationally famous Haitian composer Werner Jaegerhuber (1900-1053), who consciously set out to draw upon the rich African heritage of Haitian folklore to write some of the most exquisite compositions in our repertoire. Unfortunately, not enough is known or taught about those classic Haitian composers and the results are a complete ignorance of the wealth of our classical music. This CD contributes to filling part of the void.
Along with the excellent work of David Bontemps on the piano, Chantal Lavigne, with her sensitive and expressive soprano voice, renders justice to the compositions of Jaegerhuber. Each one of the songs is a master piece and one understands why musicologist Claude Dauphin is so ecstatic in defining the CD as “le profond héritage africain de la culture haitienne - the deep-rooted African heritage of Haitian culture” This observation could not be more accurate. Chantal Lavigne sings with her soul and David Bontemps accompanies her at every step of the way. It is no accident that he was chosen to participate in numerous concerts, meeting with great success.
While very often, we enjoy listening to the famous Choir “Choeur Simidor”, or “Voix et Tambours d'Haiti”, we do not realize that many of the compositions they interpret are that of Jaegerhuber. Claude Dauphin points out that this great composer's work inspired Martha Jean-Claude record entitled “Martha Jean-Claude chante Haiti” (1975). This is quite a tribute.
“Offrandes vaudouesques “ is a valuable addition to the collection of Haitian classical CDs released in the last few years and it enhances the repertoire of Haitian musical heritage. The music was there and it needed to be exposed. Chantal Lavigne and David Bontemps have done just that and for those among us who value Haitian folklore and culture, it is important that we seek out this CD which should help to better appreciate musicians from the previous generation such as Guy Durosier, Issa El Sahieh, or folkloric choir groups like “Coeur Simidor”. Bonne écoute!
Help fight Haitian CD piracy, it is bad for everyone.
Serge Bellegarde for Windows on Haiti. December 2007.
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