After spending time in Europe, Asia, and Africa, the French-German artist Jérôme Chazeix found new points of reference in the St. Lawrence Valley, when he settled in the village community of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. He soon met Peggy Bélanger, a soprano in the La Marée Chante choir and an artist open to co-creation and fertile encounters. Chazeix introduced six of the group’s singers to feral singing, an approach that deconstructs a group’s vocal expression to allow for improvisation and experimentation. In an original exploration of the power of the collective and the particular creativity released by unfettered discovery, Chazeix and the vocalists composed the lyrics for a long song titled Rituel pour un fleuve, a sort of epic poem praising the river’s power and energy.
With a view to a first performance at Est-Nord-Est at the end of the residency, then a second one in the village marina, on and around a moored sailboat, Chazeix designed a total stage environment made of wood-and-bamboo racks and pastel-coloured swaths of cloth with motifs that celebrate neither king nor country but being alive. Lyrics chanted by the group included “Fleuve du Nord/ Souffle boréal/ Tu es mon énergie/.../ Des profondeurs/ Tu es lumière/ Ô Rituel de vie” [Northern river/Boreal wind/You are my energy ... From the depths/You are light/O Ritual of life). It might be the entire cosmos – how its matter unifies us – that is celebrated here. In this staging, audience members were to lose their individual identities in a temporary communion created by the paper masks that Chazeix distributed. The performers also wore masks, these ones made of wood, and moved through the space in what could have been a parade or a masquerade. Although the shapes of these faces might have evoked the breadth of West Coast Indigenous cultures, here they tended toward abstraction, pointing to transcultural rituals drawn from widely diverse historical and geographic fields. The festive energy was pervasive, and the collective, its echoing chants supported by an epic synthesizer soundtrack, took the audience on a long ascent, a spellbinding break in time through which voices sprang, concentrating Chazeix’s soft energetic spirit all around.