Story by Mark Stevens
MONT-TREMBLANT, QUEBEC – Remember “The Sound of Music”, that perennial family favourite? Well, forget about it.
Forget that panorama of Alpine meadows bedecked in wildflowers, that shot of a lady pirouetting with joie de vivre (that part’s right) and bursting into song.
Sure, you’ve still got gorgeous mountains, though the green, blue-gray and indigo slopes of the Laurentians are soporific rather than sky-reaching. Sure you’ve still got that overwhelming beauty – a majestic procession of ridges decorated with pine and maple and birch.
Sure you’ve still got soulful sopranos, though this week you’ve added rhythms that set the toes-a-tapping and bass grooves you feel in the pit of your stomach.
In short, just like in the movie, the hills are alive with the sound of music.
But come July those tunes will be downright down low and earthy; brash and lush at the same time. Forget Rogers and Hammerstein.
For ten days at Tremblant, north of Montreal, you’re talking Blues, singing Blues and hearing Blues. Anything, in short, but feeling blue.
From July 6 to July 15 this charming Laurentian village is transformed to Chicago, to St. Louis, to the Delta.
Welcome to the 25th annual Tremblant International Blues Festival.
Think harmonic riffs, Blues pentatonics, three chords in every possible permutation. Think music echoing across the slopes of Mont Tremblant, cascading across this valley embraced by a village that shows like a piece of Paris, à la Montmartre.
Think fun and games – and incredible sounds in an incredible place.
Stroll cobblestone walkways bordered by flower gardens and fieldstone, past boutiques and bistros sheltered by steep tin or rainbow roofs. Make your way to Place Saint-Bernard at the Casino main stage.
After the sun goes down the stage lights up: purple and green and red. Most of us sway to the music, raising our arms and clapping in time. Some of us are serenaded, dining al fresco under green umbrellas at Le Shack Resto-bar. Some people drape themselves over the wrought iron railings of balconies overlooking the square. We face the stage; performers face capacity crowds congregated at the bottom of steep slopes decorated by skiers short months ago.
Maybe tomorrow you stroll over to the Vieux-Tremblant stage, snugged down on a tree-shaded promenade between a smattering of historic structures: sample some acoustic Blues.
Pick up some souvenirs at Blues Square, or listen to the harmonic stylings of the musical heirs to B.B. King, performing on the stage at Place des Voyageurs, a venue dedicated to the memory of that Blues great.
Maybe ride the gondola up one side of the mountain, taking in spectacular views of the village and the lake, replete with sailboat and powerboats, stop and reflect on the panorama of voluptuous mountains spread out like an emerald quilt, take in the Birds of Prey show. Then head down the other side of the mountain, trying your luck at Casino de Mont-Tremblant, dining haute cuisine before heading upstairs for another live show.
But even though the raison d’être for visiting right now might be those hills resounding with music – the festival plays out in five different venues, featuring more than a hundred concerts – it’s not the only reason to visit.
For you’ll love this region even between the shows.
Hike up the mountain or zoom down as you negotiate the serpentine track of Skyline Luge in a modified go-kart.
Maybe pamper yourselves instead. Take a break between sets and visit the nearby riverside Scandinave Spa, plunging into the river for cooling, inhaling eucalyptus steam for warming up. Then really cool off back in the village at La Diable microbrewery, downing one of a list of brews like Seventh Heaven or Extreme Unction. Add some funk to your Blues at Le P’tit Caribou, rated best Après-Ski Bar in North America by Ski Canada (though tonight you’ll be bopping instead of schussing).
Maybe bring the kids – add a soupçon of culture to a fun getaway. Hit the Family Zone before the big show. Help decorate this family-friendly oasis at Blues Square on Day One, get a temporary tattoo, let your offspring put their skills to the test with Junior Karaoke or even work on producing their own album.
Don’t want them to get all the glory? Then check out a workshop on original Blues instruments, absorbing some history while exercising your own Blues Chops. Learn to sing Gospel in a workshop led by Sylvie DesGroseilliers. Put it all on the line with Blues’aroake, where the stage belongs to you on two consecutive Saturdays: big chance for your big break.
Or just sit back and let the hills come alive.
You’re talking Zydeco, you’re talking Delta Blues with the likes of Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, right from Mississippi, you’re talking straight Blues from local bands and bands from across the country, you’re talking gospel and funk and even R and B.
Cue harmonica. Cue drums and bass and vocals and guitar. Cue everybody at the Tremblant International Blues Festival from July 6 to July 15.
For there’s one thing for sure, even if you don’t bump into Julie Andrews, even if you’re talking the Laurentians instead of the Alps.
Come July the hills will be alive with the sound of music.
Cue orchestra. Cue joie de vivre.
MORE ABOUT TREMBLANT INTERNATIONAL BLUES FESTIVAL
Date: The 25th annual Tremblant International Blues Festival runs from July 6 to July 15 inclusive.
Full Program: https://blues.tremblant.ca/en/schedule/
Website: For all things Blues Festival, from other village activities to places to stay when the music finally dies, click on https://blues.tremblant.ca/en/.
In the unlikely event you tire of the tunes – or just want to explore this region further (a really good idea) – log on to https://www.laurentides.com/en.