“When Blou came into being in the 1990s, people couldn’t figure our music genre out. They were able to make out elements of bluegrass, traditional, rock and folk music, but nobody could put their finger on it. So we coined a word describing our Acadian, Cajun and Zydeco musical roots. The name was ‘Acadico,’ and it stuck.”

That was 20 years ago, but singer-songwriter Patrice Boulianne remembers it as if it were yesterday. The new name was given to Blou’s debut album, Acadico (1998), as well as to the opening cut of the band’s most recent collection, 20 Temps, a witty title referring to Blou’s 20th anniversary. The rapid acceptance of Blou’s coined genre was an indication of the significance of a unique music style that has allowed the musicians to perform in dozens of countries and collect numerous industry honours at home, including as part of the Gala de la chanson de la Nouvelle-Écosse and the East Coast Music Awards.

“Being able to perform your Francophone songs in 36 countries around the world is something that makes you appreciate your native language enormously.”

By now, Blou has become the personal project of frontman and self-appointed Acadian culture ambassador Boulianne, a St. Mary’s Bay (NS) resident. “Being able to perform your Francophone songs in 36 countries around the world is something that makes you appreciate your native language enormously – it’s something you want to keep close to your heart. Sharing your mother tongue with people who can’t speak it can fire you up. And when I look at Radio Radio and Lisa LeBlanc right now, I can see that other artists are now picking up the torch,” says Boulianne, an artist who has steadfastly refused to move to Québec.”

Why? “Because the landscapes and the people of Acadie [a French-speaking area of Eastern Canada comprising roughly the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunscick and PEI] are my main source of inspiration,” he says. “Even if it’s hard, sometimes, with the Harper Government’s cuts in artist travel grants. I don’t think the Conservatives understand the importance of those grants for Francophone artists living outside Quebec. You’d think this was their way of getting you to sing in English, a language that makes exports and distribution easier. And not just for music either. The theatre, creative writing and the visual arts, too, are negatively affected. We are watering down our cultural heritage, that’s what we’re doing.”

By way of paying tribute to his Francophone roots, Boulianne recorded duos with Daniel Lavoie, Lina Boudreau and Mary Jane Lamond on the 20 Temps album. “I picked Daniel Lavoie as a way of celebrating my Manitoba origins,” he says. “Before moving to the Maritimes, I spent my early years on the Great Plains in the small town of St. Claude, where my father went out of his way to buy Francophone recordings by Beau Dommage, Paul Piché, Francis Cabrel and many more. I also brought Lina Boudreau into the project because she represents Acadie with one of the region’s finest singing voices. As for Mary Jane Lamond, she embodies Nova Scotia’s Celtic music influences.”

A true blending of influences, the 20 Temps compositions fall into two categories. Some of the songs – namely “Sors tes souliers de danse” [“Get Out Your Dancing Shoes»], “Oh! Madeleine” and “Anna et Louise », a tribute to Louisiana – reflect the upbeat spirit of the Acadico style. But Blou’s sixth album also reflects a more intimate folk style on “Là où on s’aime” (“Where Love Is”), a song on Bouliane’s mother’s struggle with Alzheimers, and on “Lettre pour Annette,” written in memory of friend who died suddenly in her early forties.

“It took me a long time to find the courage to include more personal songs in the Blou repertoire for fear that they may not fit into the band’s more energetic style,” says Bouliane. “A balance had to be sought, and I also had to find the right words and the proper phrasing to convey the feel of these personal songs.” Written as an attempt to bring out his personal pain and anxiety – admittedly, a kind of therapy – “Là où on s’aime” is now the theme song of  Nova Scotia’s Alzheimers Society.

Released just a few months ago, 20 Temps brings out another side of Patrice Boulianne’s personality that Blou fans in other countries will soon be able to discover for themselves. “Thanks to RIDEAU’s networking program as well as to the ECMAs and FrancoFête en Acadie, my booking agency (À l’infini) has been able to develop an impressive network of contacts that help me keep an eye on our European connection,” says the tireless Acadian culture ambassador. “I’m going to be back there soon.”

“Canada’s Duran Duran.” That’s what they called Glass Tiger, the young men from Newmarket, Ont., after they became radio and video sensations with “Don’t Forget Me (When I’m Gone),” the first single off their debut album The Thin Red Line. Co-written by longtime SOCAN board member Jim Vallance, and featuring guest vocals from Bryan Adams – for whom Vallance was a mentor and frequent songwriting partner –  it was the launching pad for a great run of pop hits. Glass Tiger singer Alan Frew spoke to SOCAN about his first Canadian Classic.

Is it true you wrote “Don’t Forget Me” on the first day in the studio with Jim?
We wrote “Don’t Forget Me” and “Someday” on the first day!

What was in the water?
Jim picks us up at the airport and asks what we’re listening to these days, then we stopped at the record store to pick up those albums. He made tea. And then we played these CDs. And when Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” came on, Jim went, “Aha! A shuffle beat.” And so we started with a shuffle beat. And I started singing the line, “don’t forget me when I’m gone,” as if it was a verse. Jim said, “That’s a great little statement. Let’s hold that for when we get the chorus.”

How did you get Bryan Adams on there?
We met over the phone. Bryan used to call the studio occasionally, just checking in on Jim. Bryan was in Toronto for the JUNOs and popped into the studio to see us. It turned into a nice little session where we were sitting around talking about music, having a few beers. But Jim’s brain was working. He said, “Why don’t you two go in and sing some stuff?” So Bryan and I, three or four Heinekens in, we said “Sure!” It wasn’t contrived.

Did you know it was a golden song?
I can tell you exactly what clicked for me: when I came up with the idea of putting on the harmony myself. I’ll never forget, it sounded like the Everly Brothers. I remember being on the plane back to Toronto, and I had the finished Thin Red Line in my pocket, on a cassette, and I remember sitting there, thinking, “Please don’t let this plane go down before people get to hear this!”

What was more important to you: hitting No. 1 in Canada, or No. 2 in the U.S.?
There’s absolutely no doubt that “Don’t Forget Me” would have been a No. 1 song in America if they had released it simultaneously with Canada. But someone had this wacky idea that they wanted to release “Thin Red Line” there first. We had a disjointed campaign.

You were nominated for a Grammy for Best New Group in 1987. Did you go?
Yes. That was incredible. Sitting beside Paul Simon and Peter Gabriel. You go for a pee and you’re sharing space with Roger Daltrey. Whitney Houston coming over and saying “hi.” The sad thing was, we had been told by the Americans already, “ You ain’t winning it.” They said they would not give it to the Canadians. That’s O.K. We jumped on a plane to Germany the next morning to start playing with Tina Turner. And nobody remembers who won anyway. (Ed. Note: It was Bruce Hornsby and The Range.)

When you listen back to that original recording, what do you think?
I hear a young guy. I think of a time when we were really green and the world was our oyster. You land in Germany and there are screaming girls waiting for you, and you’re thinking, “How do these people even know us?” But of course they do, because your song is climbing up their charts.  I try to encourage young artists to take it all in. Because if I made one mistake it’s that I didn’t  stop quite long enough to pat myself on the back.

The day Toronto composer Jordan Pal learned he was the National Youth Orchestra of Canada’s 2014 RBC Foundation Emerging Composer-in-Residence was unforgettable: news of his appointment landed just as he was bringing home his newborn child. Several happy, if sleepless, weeks later Pal was deep into writing the NYOC-commissioned work that will premiere and be recorded during the orchestra’s summer 2014 season. With a piece on the summer repertoire of Boris Brott’s National Academy Orchestra of Canada – a composition premiered by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra in 2012 – Pal is hyper-aware of the integral role so many youth orchestras now play in the life of Canadian composers.

“Our mandate is to bring fresh ideas from young composers to our professional training organization.” – The NYOC’s Barbara Smith

And while Pal has written for prestigious professional ensembles, the NYOC commission is not without challenges. “It’s a 104-person orchestra, so it’s tricky for them to find repertoire that uses everyone – percussionists, two harps, full strings, winds in fours, you name it,” he says. While the NYOC may continue to commission established composers, executive director Barbara Smith says the shift to the composer-in-residence program “fits nicely with our mandate – to bring fresh ideas from young composers to our professional training organization.”

Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra artistic director Dinuk Wijeratne, also an active composer and performer, said the NSYO has long been committed to commissioning works by Atlantic composers; Derek Charke’s Concerto Grosso, for example, “was a fantastic piece, written with a lot of savvy for the youth orchestra,” Wijeratne says.

“When you look at pre-existing works, the majority are written for pro orchestras,” he continues. “I have a list of people whose music I would like to play but have to find pieces that are suitable.” Last year NSYO performed the late Malcolm Forsyth’s Natal Landscapes, and next season’s repertoire includes Andrew Staniland’s Voyageur. Wijeratne is also excited about the NSYO’s emerging composer competition, open to Canadian undergrads enrolled in a degree program: “We really hit the ground running last season with Roydon Tse, who wrote a fresh piece for this past season, and this year’s winner is Joseph Glaser, also from UBC.”

Many youth orchestra conductors also compose. This past May, the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra’s intermediate orchestra premiered a new work by its conductor Jin Zhang, who has written works for previous VYSO seasons. And the West Island Youth Symphony Orchestra (in Montreal) has performed works by the likes of Denis Gougeon and Norman Symonds, as well as compositions by its artistic director Stewart Grant.

The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, nearing its 50th anniversary, not only records, but also regularly performs internationally. This July, the group delivers the world premiere of the commissioned work A Dream of Dawn by busy Toronto composer Kevin Lau at the Summa Cum Laude International Youth Music Competition in Vienna, Austria, on the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I.

“Our thought was the work needed to commemorate the event,” says NBYO president Ken MacLeod . “The piece will become the theme of our whole season, and we’ll perform it at all our concert locations across New Brunswick.”