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The Thirty Top Picks: J'entends le moulin

Composer: Donald PatriquinTitle: J'entends le moulin
Composer: French Canadian Folksong
Arrangement: Donald Patriquin (b.1938)
Publisher: earthsongs
Voicing: SS
Accompaniment: Piano
Timing: 3:39
Language: French


J'entends le moulin (tique tique taque)
Mon père a fair batir maison.
La fait batir à trois pignons.
Sont trois charpentiers qui la font.
Le plus jeune c'est mon mignon.
Qu'apporte-tu dans ton jupon?
C'est un paté de trois pigeons.
Asseyons-nous et le mangeons.
En s'asseyant il fit un bond,
Qui fit trembler mer et poisson
Et les cailloux qui sont au fond.

I hear the millwheel (tique tique taque)
My father is having a house built.
It's being built with three gables.
There are three carpenters building it.
The youngest is my darling.
What do you have in your apron?
It's a pie made of three pigeons.
Let's sit down and eat it.
While sitting down they all lept up,
Causing the sea and fish to tremble,
and the stones on the bottom of the sea.

Notes from the arranger:

Spurred on by the interest in “Ah! si mon moine…” and being drawn to the vibrancy and beauty of French Canadian folk melodies, in the early 90's I embarked on a suite of French Canadian folk songs of which “J'entends le moulin” was to be the first. The arrangement of this song was commissioned by the children's choir of the Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal (now the English Language Montreal School Board) whose director, Erica Phare, invited me to hold an exploratory workshop with her choir in preparation for the creation of the arrangement. I spent a day working with the students, having them improvise with both melodic and percussive elements of this piece, and then set about creating the arrangement. The text, which concerns itself in part with the ‘tique tique taque' sound of a mill, is essentially nonsense, but nonetheless is both interesting and evocative. As it is repetitive it is not only quite easily performed by non—francophones, but also readily learned by heart. It has now received performances on all continents, and is probably my most performed arrangement. But, a very good pianist is needed!

Notes from the co-conductors:

This piece is a brilliant showstopper for a virtuosi pianist and a choir that's happy singing in French. The French text appears at times to be totally illogical and nonsensical due to its “game of rhymes” in which the final syllables of each line all have to rhyme with the “tends” of “J'entends”. With a teasing sense of call and answer in the arrangement, sopranos often send out a phrase inviting and/or teasing the altos to answer. There are optional percussion parts included which add to the fun and the participatory nature of the piece. The major difficulties of the piece are managing the delivery speed of the French words, keeping the dynamic contrasts sharp and crisp in the singing, and maintaining a tempo that not only the singers can keep steady, but that the accompanist can keep up with. Donald Patriquin has compiled a very engaging, lively, two-part, accompanied and entertaining arrangement of a well-known French folksong – but your pianist should be fearless. – DL

Score exerpts (PDF) : click here

Sound byte (MP3): Listen

CDs available: From the Heart (Skylark Music) Sky9602

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