Formidable! Translated from French to English, formidable means “Wow” which is precisely the reaction I, and thousands of local students, had to Frenchstock, the concert of various children’s french rock musicians who performed last Thursday at the J.M. Ennis auditorium at Centennial Secondary School in Welland. Frenchstock – a play on words that alludes to Woodstock – was a very hip and clever way to get kids thinking, and singing, en fran‡ais.

The concert featured children’s rock recording stars, Juli Powers, Jacquot, Poutine, Etienne, alongside magician and entertainer, Marc Tardif. And from the reaction from the crowd of over 1,000 students for the morning performance, the kids were loving every minute of every performance.

Each artist gave an interactive performance that encouraged students to participate in french. In fact, all the music and most of the commentary was communicated in French, and most kids were singing right along with their favourite rock artists, and dancing in their seats or aisles.

Powers is a local, St. Catharines artist whose most recent recording, Un Jour, was released last year. Powers, a FSL educator, and singer/songwriter incorporates the successful AIM program of teaching French as a second language into her performances by using gestures to reinforce meaning in her songs. Powers’ high-energy, upbeat performance ended with a French, totally rocking-out version of O Canada, that had all the kids up on their feet, singing and dancing in the aisles.

District School Board of Niagara French consultant Lorraine Gower joined Powers onstage, singing the national anthem alongside the singer.

Next Frenchstock children’s performer, the Juno-nominated Jacquot, followed with songs from his CD, Curriculum-based Songs for French (Volume 1), that again, most of the kids knew and sang along with. Jacquot’s highly interactive show had fans gesturing and joining into the fun. Jacquot had an infectious, enthusiastic energy and kids participated in providing sound effects throughout the performance. Bravo, he enthused near the close of his set, and had them pat themselves on the back for a job well-done, which indeed, it was.

The rock concert frenzy continued with Poutine singer, Jane, and a large part of the fans crowded to the stage to sing-along with her hit song, Poutine – fries with an attitude, title track. Jane left the stage and invited young singers to sing a verse of her catchy hit song, and then announced her own Poutine Idol contest, relating to kids that they could submit a their own audition for the contest with a recorded verse of her song, Poutine.

Magician Marc Tardif calmed the show down a few notches, and had students concentrating on feats of magic such as having a dove appear from thin air, card tricks involving volunteers from the audience, and fire swallowing. Tardif provided all of his illusion set-ups in french, followed with the english translation afterward. Two-time winner of Canada’s Favourite Children’s Artist of the Year award, Etienne, performed hip hop songs with a throbbing beat, and young dancers joined him onstage with choreographed movements to his latest music from Grammar Jams 2. Etienne too, ran through the crowd jamming with kids, en fran‡ais, to music that the kids were completely into.

I spoke with DSBN French consultant Gower after the show and asked why she felt a concert like Frenchstock was important for the students. She explained, “Frenchstock teaches the students to appreciate the fact that our country has two official languages, and encourages them to learn as many languages as possible. Children can only grow by learning different cultures and languages.”

Gower estimated that the two Frenchstock performances, both held at Centennial Secondary School in Welland, would see over 1,800 students from the region participating, and she admitted that she was ecstatic with the childrens’ response to the show.

Frenchstock show organizer, Etienne, explained that he’d put the show together for a Windsor audience, after receiving a federal government grant for the project. The show was well-received with Windsor audiences, and soon educators from across the province were requesting a similar show for their own areas, so Etienne decided to take the show on tour. Etienne is a worldwide performer who uses the popular hip hop genre of music to entice kids into learning second languages, but said that he wanted to get a variety of original artists onstage, to provide an inclusive Woodstock type concert-setting, that he has instead dubbed Frenchstock.

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