I caught an interview on the French language news station RDI with the Festival's new director, Dominique Goulet, who was harangued by a television interviewer over the issue.
Despite the aggressiveness of the questions, she kept her cool and even displayed a measure of condescension. I sub-titled a small portion of the interview;
The controversy has been raging for a while, touched off when a group of nationalist performers sent a letter to the Minister of Culture complaining that there were too many English artists performing and that a government subsidy should not be used to promote anything other than French artists..
The directer of the Festival shot back that the English artists are the biggest moneymakers for the Festival and that it is they who actually subsidize the French artists!
In an article published in Montreal's LE DEVOIR, provocatively entitled French Music has Little Future, Ms. Goulet dropped a couple of other bombshells. She told the interviewer that there were fewer and fewer artists available to sing in French and that those that were, weren't that popular.
Of the Festival's eleven headline artists only three are to sing in French.
"I remember having dinner with friends when I told them:" I'll give you $100 if you find a French artist who could fill the Plains (of Abraham)". The question remained unanswered and Mrs. Goulet kept money. "There aren't many. It isn't because we don't want them" -LE DEVOIR
Then she touched on what may be the biggest scare;
"We must realize that the French song does not seem the way of the future, at least for now. Is this the death of the French-language song? Not necessarily. But what we see, whether here or in France, is that young people, regardless of the type of music, sing in English."YIKES!!!!
The folks over at the Saint Jean Baptiste Society and other French nationalist groups are likely going into shock over that statement.
On second thought, they are more likely happy to have been provided more 'proof' that French needs to be reinforced.
She underlined that the trend towards English in music is world-wide.
With modern technology, there's no reason for an artist to remain a 'local' and the common denominator is English, a trend language nationalists are powerless to curtail.
Another aspect to the debate is purely commercial, with Quebec artists pushing their own economic interests in the guise of cultural independence.
"Quebec should encourage local artists instead of helping support the commercial pop business.." said Quebec songwriter Paul PichéOnce again music lovers in Quebec will vote with their wallets. If the English artists are unpopular they won't be invited back, but I think we all know where the truth lies, so do the complainers.
As in the old inspirational story of an English king who in order to demonstrate his power, ordered the ocean's tide to stop from coming in, French language nationalists will be just as unsuccessful in stemming the tide of English music.
"Waves, stop your rolling
Surf, stop your pounding
Surf, stop your pounding
Do not dare touch my feet!"