Suzanne Bernard was singing French songs to her grandchild nearly six years ago when she realized there was a need in the community for a singing group.
“I was stopping in the middle of the songs saying, ‘Oh, I forgot the words!” said the Parksville resident who moved to the area from Montreal 28 years ago.
Bernard started the group Nous Chantons to enjoy the songs but also to remember and celebrate French Canadian culture and history, and today a core group of 12 people do just that.
Bernard taught French Immersion classes at the elementary school level in the area before retiring, and said music was a big part of the children’s learning.
“That’s the way we learned the language with a lot of songs and nursery rhymes,” she said.
Nous Chantons has a repertoire of 425 songs, including music from Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, France, Martinique, Spain, Louisiana and more.
The group has members spanning the Canadian provinces and Bernard said she has discovered that one of the members is related to her from nine generations ago.
“We found a line in common from a brother or sister,” she said.
Nous Chantons starts up again for the season Sept. 10 and gets together for two hours every Wednesday from 1:30-3:30 p.m. New members are welcomed.
The only stipulations to becoming a member is having a passion for singing and the ability to understand (not necessarily speak) French.
Last year the group started singing at senior’s homes in the area and in Nanaimo, and have sung twice at the Maple Sugar Festival in that city.
Bernard said the group takes turns hosting their Wednesday sessions at each other’s homes and thoroughly enjoy their experiences.
“We are very happy to sing together,” she said. “It’s a nice time to share our life and our French culture at break time.”
Call Bernard for more information at 250-248-8714.