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Fifty years ‘on the pond’ for local francophones

La Nuit sur l’étang releases 50th anniversary lineup

La Nuit sur l’étang celebrates 50 years of producing original concerts and events for the Franco-Ontarian community this March.

In French, the annual festival is being billed as ‘’deux soirs: une Nuit sur l’étang,’’ meaning it’s viewed as two nights but one Nuit sur l’étang.

The organization recently released its lineup. The March 24 evening event, which is being held at Place des Arts, will feature the groups En Bref and Hey Wow. On March 25, Medhi Cayenne takes the stage at Collège Boréal.

’If la Nuit is celebrating its 50 years it is because the Franco-Ontarian community determined it was indispensable,” said La Nuit’s Managing Director, Pierre Paul Mongeon.

Daniel Bédard is the musical director and artistic director of the Saturday night portion of the celebrations.

“The first Nuit sur l’étang were not just music, we had plays, poets, music and visual arts,” he said. “This year we are intent on presenting poetry and some theatrical aspects to renew with our heritage.”

The Friday evening is being helmed by Gino St. Jean, a long-time organizer.

“We are going to delight the audience with many surprises but as would be expected, we will be featuring many artists that have graced our stage in the past 50 years such as Robert Paquette (Montréal/Sudbury), Chuck Labelle (Azilda), Breen Leboeuf (ex of Offenbach from North Bay) and Marcel Aymar,” said St. Jean.

In addition, the Prix du Nouvel Ontario – an award for lifetime achievement - will be presented on Friday night. It was first awarded in 1983.

La Nuit sur l’étang is part of the Northern Ontario cultural effervescence of the 1970s that included the creation of Northern Lights Festival Boréal. 

In fact, performers such as Robert Paquette, Chuck Labelle and numerous others performed at both the Festival Boréal and La Nuit sur l’étang. 

There was a great complicity between the francophone and anglophone artistic communities in the 1970s in Sudbury.

The French language community in Ontario identified as French Canadians up until the late 1960s when the Québécois broke away from the French-Canadian Nation to create their own ‘’space.”

This forced young Franco-Ontarians (as well as Acadians and all francophones outside Quebec) to forge their own identity.

And that is exactly what these poets, academics, journalists, actors, photographers, musicians, authors, and singer songwriters did: they created a publishing company, Prise de Parole in 1973, a theatre company in 1971 — Le Théâtre du Nouvel-Ontario, a gallery — La Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario, a co-op community CANO, a musical group CANO-Musique and a solo artist in Robert Paquette (often paired with Pierre Germain). And of course, La Nuit sur l’étang in 1973.

In the 1970s and beyond francophones were called “frogs” in a derisive way. Organizers of la Nuit in 1973 decided to turn this epitaph on its head and create a Night on the Pond.

We are frogs? Fine, let us celebrate who we are. Throughout the first 30 years or so, it was tradition that the audience imitate the sound of frogs in the pond.

You can purchase tickets to the 50th anniversary event online at (write La Nuit sur l’étang in the search engine) or go to (write Sudbury in the search engine). 

Tickets are also available by email at [email protected], phone at 705-885-1076 or in person at la Place des Arts.

Tickets cost between $15 and $110, depending on the patron’s age and what event or events they’re planning to attend.