French program welcomes award-winning musician

On Friday, April 5, the Cornell College French program had the honor of welcoming award-winning musician Gina Forsyth to campus.

The Malvinas surprised Elizabeth Carroll’s French 102 class with a performance
The Malvinas surprised Elizabeth Carroll’s French 102 class with a performance

Forsyth is a singer, songwriter, fiddler, and guitarist based in New Orleans, Louisiana. She has been part of several well-respected Cajun music ensembles and has put out CDs with Bruce Daigrepont’s Cajun band (including Bienvenu Dans le Sud Louisiane) and Mid-City Aces.

The French 511 course, French Reading and Conversation Group, opened its doors to all students, faculty, staff, and the general public to listen to Forsyth speak about Cajun history, differences between Louisiana French and Parisian French, and Cajun music. She introduced the audience to several Cajun songs by singing and playing the fiddle, as well as explaining the songs’ origins and French-language lyrics.

“This was a special opportunity for students to learn first-hand about one aspect of French influence in the United States and to better understand the global nature and variations of the French language,” said Associate Professor of French Rebecca Wines. “To absorb all of that while experiencing music played by a master was a fun and unique opportunity for the Cornell community.”

Forsyth was in Mount Vernon as part of the trio The Malvinas, who performed at the First Street Community Center later that evening. Towards the end of Forsyth’s hour-long talk and performance on campus, the two other members of The Malvinas (Beth Cahill and Lisa Markley) appeared and the group put on a rousing rendition of two more Cajun numbers, “Maman Roseanne” and “Allons à Lafayette.”  They taught the lyrics to the audience, who sang along as Cahill played mandolin and Markley strummed guitar, harmonizing with Forsyth.

Cahill hails from Québec and Markley traveled from New York; the trio plays together infrequently, making their mini-concert a rare treat. As an encore of sorts, Cahill, Forsyth, and Markley surprised Elizabeth Carroll’s French 102 class, introducing themselves and their music in French and performing a couple of songs.  Their Cornell campus finale was a live interview on KRNL later that afternoon.

The French program thanks LilFest and Nancy Emrich Freeman for help organizing the visit and LACE (Lecture, Artists, and Culture Events) for its financial support in making Forsyth’s visit possible.