Although La Cité francophone calls itself home to doctor’s offices, social programs, professional services, theatres and the beloved Café Bicyclette, at a glance, the Francophone cultural centre looks purpose-built for live music. Rising out of the heart of Edmonton’s Francophone quarter in Bonnie Doon, the building’s mix of curved, red-trimmed glass and green grassy slopes comes together to form an amphitheatre that is half steel and half greenery, all surrounding a sizeable sunken patio. The only thing missing is a band, a crowd and a general carefreeness that’s been in short supply this past year. Thanks to dropping case counts and a couple million vaccinations, it looks set to be getting that, too.
Poorly aging articles announcing a return to normalcy are a pandemic classic at this point, but with 75 per cent of eligible Canadians having received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, those declarations are starting to seem more prudent than ever. For community institutions like La Cité francophone, the imminent likelihood of a post-COVID reality is also a welcome relief after 16 dizzying months of ever-changing restrictions.
“We’re optimistic that with this third reopening, summer is upon us,” says Daniel Cournoyer, executive director of La Cité francophone. “It’s the Saint-Jean-Baptiste on June 24 [and] we’re starting our patio series at La Cité, so all things considered with the news that’s coming out, [there is] light at the end of the tunnel.”
In particular, La Cité francophone is gearing up for the reopening of Café Bicyclette and the kickoff of its annual concert series on June 24.
“We’re over the moon, just to be able to provide a safe, fun, welcoming, outdoor environment in which we can celebrate — I’m not going to the say the best summer ever — but celebrate our summer season as we slowly crawl out of the pandemic,” Cournoyer adds.
Although live music has long been a staple at La Cité francophone, this summer will mark the fourth year of the concert series. Artists scheduled to perform include names like jazz legend PJ Perry, award-winning singer-songwriter Mallory Chipman, and Juno-nominated folk artist Marie Dunn, all starting off with a performance from multilingual five-piece ensemble, Le Fuzz. Visitors to the concert series can also look forward to a revamped menu at Café Bicyclette, starting in July.
The concert series may be back in time for summer, but with La Cité francophone’s years of experience hosting winter events like the Flying Canoë Volant, Cournoyer wants to see the series extended for as long as possible.
“Our patio series is going to go right into December,” he says. “We’re going to be doing as much as we can outdoors, but we’ll move [inside] on that shoulder season.”
“We already produce a winter festival, so we take those assets once again and we use them. We take advantage of the space that we have to create a truly unique Edmonton experience.”
Cournoyer is also quick to highlight that the concert series is for all Edmontonians, whether they belong to the Francophone community or not.
“When we think of cultural centres, we look at them as silos,” he says. “I’ve been very much on a trajectory in the last 10 years of giving people reasons to come. A reason to discover French culture. A reason to try something different.”
“As you can see with our musical lineup, we have French music, we have English music, all genres of music are performed … Usually you don’t go to a cultural centre unless you have a very specific reason, and we just want to create as many reasons as possible.”
La Cité francophone’s weekly concert series is set to begin on June 24 and run throughout summer, with concerts happening on Thursdays at 7 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online through La Cité francophone’s website.