Celebrate joie de vivre over Reading Week by tuning into Festival du Voyageur’s free virtual programming

By Rachel Wilson

Audience members listen to a live musical performance at Festival du Voyageur 2020./JEN DOERKSEN

Winnipeg’s Franco-Manitoban music scene is bringing Festival du Voyageur’s familiar culture and spirit into everyone’s homes this year over eight days of virtual celebration. 

Western Canada’s largest winter festival will be entirely online this year, meaning anyone with an internet connection can view the festivities—but without the cold.

“Honestly, it’s one of the best festivals, period,” said Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner, one-third of Winnipeg folk band Red Moon Road, who are playing one of Festival’s virtual concerts. 

“The atmosphere is amazing and it’s celebrating the historical culture of the region,” Péloquin-Hopfner said. “I’m so happy it’s still happening.”

Musicians like Péloquin-Hopfner have been working with Festival’s team to create memorable virtual performances.

“Their crew’s killer, like actually world class,” Péloquin-Hopfner said. 

This is Péloquin-Hopfner’s 12th time performing at Festival.

 “They’re always just so good at making fun experiences happen.” 

Festival recorded their musical performances back in January and took time to follow Manitoba’s code red restrictions. This allowed some musicians the chance to perform on Festival’s stage with a full, atmospheric light show and fog machine.

Red Moon Road played a virtual concert at Festival du Voyageur on Saturday, Feb. 13./RED MOON ROAD

Péloquin-Hopfner said the most bizarre part of online performances is missing the live audience, but having something to book in the calendar feels joyful.

“It was the real deal, except on the other side of the lights you couldn’t hear anyone,” Péloquin-Hopfner said. “There was just like this weird empty deep echo of a vast room outside our little bubble of light. It’s so weird.”

Julien Desaulniers, Festival’s artistic director, said they made the decision in December to move the winter festival exclusively online.

For Desnaulniers, accessibility is the main positive to come out of an online Festival. 

“This is an opportunity to work with artists from all over,” he said. 

Festival’s musical lineup will not only feature artists currently in Winnipeg, but also musicians like Ariel Posen, currently based in Montreal.

Aside from the musical performances, Desaulniers said Festival is running online educational programming throughout February. 

“It’s a record year for the school program,” he said. 

This year, schools all across Canada are using Festival’s online material to learn about Voyageur, Métis and Indigenous cultures. 

Desaulniers also said Robyn Adams, the Festival’s Indigneous Initiatives Coordinator, has been working to incorporate more Indigenous programming than ever before.

Péloquin-Hopfner believes a virtual Festival will reach wider audiences.  

“For anyone who’s ever wanted to see our band and maybe couldn’t afford the ticket price, it’s suddenly much more accessible,” he said. 

Festival du Voyageur’s free programming continues all month and the virtual concerts kicked off on Friday, February 12.