“I don’t think that we thought that we would do it (tour) to the extent that we are doing it now. It’s been a really big surprise,” LeBlanc said of where the group’s music has taken them. “The first time that we started showcasing, back in 2000, 2001, we were kind of just doing it for fun and we thought it would be great if we could do a few shows.”
The group, comprised of Mont-Carmel natives LeBlanc, her twin sister Pastelle and Pascale Miousse of the Magdalen Islands, is on tour overseas, currently in Austria, a place where few Island performers get to perform.
“We’re paired up with musicians from Ireland and a singer from the States. There are two groups travelling around. We are doing 18 dates all around the country,” said Emmanuelle in a recent interview via Skype from Austria.
It was shortly after Vishtèn’s first few showcases, one being at the East Coast Music Awards in Charlottetown more than a decade ago, that its members packed their suitcases to tour overseas after catching the eye of several European promoters.
“They immediately loved what we were doing and started bringing us to France and different places. We didn’t know why they were so interested in our music but it is really different from what they know,” said LeBlanc. “They feel like it is kind of exotic. We are lucky we are able to travel so much with our music and explain and represent a little bit of the culture that is going on in P.E.I. Pascal is from the Madgalen Islands. We get to talk about it here in Europe, which is really cool.”
Earlier this year, Vishtèn toured Australia, connecting with fellow Islander, Tim Chaisson, who was also on tour of that country.
“They love Canadian artists,” said LeBlanc. “It’s great to see someone from home when you are halfway around the world.”
While in Austria for the Celtic Caravan Spring Tour, the trio received news of their latest accolade — winning the East Coast Music Award for Francophone Recording of the Year for their most recent effort, “Mōsaïk.”
Ironically, it’s the second time Vishtèn received the award while on tour. It was a friend who delivered the news via email.
“There were so many great nominees in the category,” said LeBlanc. “We were just really ecstatic about it. It’s always great to be recognized by your peers for the music that you’re doing.”
The group’s final show of the Celtic Caravan tour was in Switzerland this past Saturday. The trio will take a break to visit Germany before a gig Friday in France.
“It’s really cool. It’s our first time in Austria. We’ve played Switzerland and Italy just a little bit. It’s great,” said LeBlanc. “We didn’t know much about the country. The promoter is really taking care of making sure that we visit the mountains and stuff and we are playing some really nice venues. We have about 150 to 200 people per night.”
While the group performs a mix of folk, Celtic, Acadian and contemporary music, all sung in French, language hasn’t been a barrier during the tour, she added.
“They really love all the foot percussion. As far as the language, it doesn’t really matter because we explain everything in English. They really enjoy the music and the melodies of the songs,” said LeBlanc. “They’re very generous… with their applause, with their personalities… their food and with the way they welcome us in their venue or their city. They want us to discover it.”
She called it a cultural tour for the group, with enough time for Vishtèn’s members to act as tourists in between performances in May.
“We just drove in from Italy today. We stopped in a little village that was kind of in the mountains on a lake,” said LeBlanc. “These are great memories that we’ll never forget.”
At one time, Vishtèn was spending at least 150 days of the year on the road, performing that many shows.
“We were in our suitcases all the time. Now, we’ll do 70 or 80 shows a year.”
The trio returns to Canada later this month to Montreal, where they currently reside. They have gigs planned in New York State, New Hampshire and Quebec in April and travel to Washington DC and Pennsylvania.
The hope is to return to the Island this summer for a show in June or July.