Backstage WITH MUSIC

The priest whose ballads are wowing Quebec

KEN LEFOLII November 22 1958

Backstage WITH MUSIC

The priest whose ballads are wowing Quebec

KEN LEFOLII November 22 1958

Backstage WITH MUSIC

The priest whose ballads are wowing Quebec

THE BLESSED RAIN

So do mi Splatter with glee. So mi do Rain, rain,

Rivulets flow.

So do mi Rinning on me.

Among the hottest items on Quebec record shelves are a new and bouncy assortment of songs such as this, accompanied by a thumping Presley-style guitar rhythm and sung not by a crew-cut teenager but by a tonsured Franciscan priest named Bernard de Brienne.

"When they call the roll on payday up above," Père Bernard chants on his one-night stands throughout the province, and his predominantly teen-age audiences stomp, sway and clap as though they were being serenaded by The Four Lads.

His brown robes swishing on the stage, an opentoed sandal tapping the beat, he then launches into Lady Mary, or I Left My Boots Behind, or Frère Feu. or The Mixed Up Kids, or his theme song. My Little Yellow Flower:

Oh, my little yellow flower, teach me how to love.

In my singing soul, make all eternity flower.

The singing and swinging is all part of Père Bernard's apostolate. Following their ordination as priests, the Franciscans go out from their monastery doing various works, usually charitable. Père Bernard’s choice was to sing and beat a guitar.

Quebec's youngsters can't get enough of it. and he works hard to meet the demand. In two years he has composed 300 songs in a style best described as poptune spiritual and sung in auditoriums, churches and town halls. He has the full blessing of his superiors. "He does a good thing to propose this new style of music,” says Father Superior Cyrille at the Franciscan monastery at Sherbrooke, where Père Bernard studied.

His fame seems likely to go well beyond this lively start. Since March recordings of his songs have sold 30.000 copies. Next, he plans a tour of Catholic youth clubs in the U. S. He has recorded a five-song album for Christmas and will follow that with a 12-song LP for Easter. Plans are also being made to distribute his records in France. He preserves his vows of poverty by turning his royalties into an education fund for would-be Franciscan priests.

Père Bernard became a troubadour chiefly through the Elvis Presley craze. He played piano but found teen-agers cold to it. So he took up the guitar and be-

gan singing: his audiences warmed up amazingly.

Is Père Bernard merely a phenomenon of French Canada? Probably not.

He sings in both French and English. Recently he put on a show in Cornwall, Ontario. By next morning, he says, "half the kids in town were singing The Blessed Rain, which goes, “So do mi.

Splatter with glee . . .”

KEN LEFOLII