Members of Chic Gamine of past and present had a bit of a whirlwind Winnipeg Folk Fest this year.
Debuting mostly all new music, the local group played the main stage for a full set for the very first time – and shared the honour with former member Ariane Jean, inviting her onstage to perform a song.
The moment was touching and encapsulates the essence of the group: its talent and charisma is boundless, but the members never lose touch with their humble roots.
This humility along with their heart-stopping harmonies and never-back-down, chase-your-dreams, all-in approach to music led the Folk Fest organizers to elicit Andrina Turenne and Alexa Dirks to mentor up-and-coming artists in the Galaxie Young Performers Program.
The experience for the intimate crowd nestled on the grass at Shady Grove for the youth performance as well as for the young participants more than exceeded expectations.
Winnipegger Cassidy Mann, who’s participated in the young performers program at Folk Fest more than once, says the ladies of Chic Gamine “were the best mentors I ever had.
“They were just so supportive and open, (and) they’re just the kindest people.”
Going above and beyond, Mann says she got to see her mentors backstage after their milestone main stage performance.
From their guidance, she says she learned “to be confident and really believe in your music… what you’re trying to say and what you’re trying to do.”
The group has never wavered from its own belief, and the new formation of Andrina Turenne, Alexa Dirks, Annick Bremault, Sacha Daoud and Benoit Morier dedicate to their music full-time.
Giving up has “never been part of our discussion,” says Turenne.
When it came to festival highlights for Turenne, nothing could have been dreamier than assuming the stage that one of her idols, Bonnie Raitt, graced the night prior.
“To see one of your heroes onstage and then perform in front of your community.
(It’s) just amazing.”
Turenne also felt gifted to have been chosen as a valuable mentor for a hand-picked crop of talent. Forty-two musicians from across Canada and the United States were selected by a jury of industry professionals to work with mentors at the festival.
“It’s humbling to even be asked to be in the position,” says Turenne. “Being recognized as somebody who has something that’s valued by another generation coming up.”
Mann says she’s been looking forward to the experience since she heard Chic Gamine members would be mentoring the young group, as a devoted fan and Winnipegger herself, the group models what is possible for a committed performer from this small prairie city.
Already playing sets all around town, Mann may be priming to follow in the footsteps of several past young performers who’ve moved on to their own slots in the Folk Fest lineup.
Besides learning from the successful singer/musicians of Chic Gamine, Mann says the opportunity to play and experiment with other young performers from across North America who share her dreams was extremely rewarding.
“It’s really nice to just get feedback, especially from other songwriters that are trying to do the same thing,’ she says.
The group of six young artists mentored under Chic Gamine, including Winnipeggers Mitchell Schimnowski and Mann, collaborated on most songs onstage, offering their harmonies and additional guitar support on each other’s tracks.
The crew had clearly bonded over their time spent preparing to take the stage together, and, under the guidance of Turenne and Dirks, took the stage with confidence.
Dirks jokingly disciplined a performer when he said he was surrounded by brighter talent onstage that day, reminding him they talked about refraining from being self-deprecating.
Though, she introduced the group riding the line herself: “I don’t know what we really taught them ‘cause they seemed to know a lot already,” said Dirks.
Turenne adds: “It was great that we were busy with the young performers all day so we didn’t think about (our main stage performance) too much.”
But if you were watching their main stage show, you’d never know they had a shred of trepidation.