La Rencontre: Monthly Franco Luncheon
The Jalbert Orchestra, 1920s. The children of Arthur and Célina Simard Jalbert, from l to r:  Fern, Germaine, Conrad, Judy, Gertrude, and Gabriel. The catalyst for the family was the mother, Célina Jalbert,  who was determined that the children have as many opportunities as possible to further their education. Louis Jalbert, known as Maine’s “Mr. Democrat,” though not in this picture,played drums in the group with his brothers and sisters. (photo courtesy of the Franco-American Collection, University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College).

The Jalbert Orchestra, 1920s. The children of Arthur and Célina Simard Jalbert, L-to-R: Fern, Germaine, Conrad, Judy, Gertrude, and Gabriel. Louis Jalbert, who would later become known as Maine’s “Mr. Democrat” and represent Lewiston for 38 years in the Maine Legislature, played drums in the group with his brothers and sisters but is not pictured here. (photo courtesy of the Franco-American Collection, University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College).

Each month we present La Rencontre (French for “the gathering”) as a way for our extended Franco-American family in the area to reconnect with each other and with our neighbors. Meals and stories are shared, friends are reunited, and memories are made.

We offer a fully catered luncheon, followed by a performance. Both the menu and the entertainment vary each month. The charge to attend is $8 and the public is invited. However, reservations are required at least four days in advance by calling the Franco Center Office at 783-1585 during regular box office hours from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday (no weekend messages, please), so that we can order and prepare an appropriate amount of food.

The deadline for all calls will be 4 p.m.on the Tuesday immediately prior to the luncheon on Thursday.

Traditionally in Franco culture, big celebratory meals of this sort would include live music provided by members of the family and their neighbors. Many families like Lewiston’s Jalbert family (above photo) made sure their kids each learned to play an instrument in order to entertain at such gatherings — and so, accordingly, we invite local musicians to provide live music for our guests.

To learn more about upcoming performances and menus, check the Event Calendar. Here’s a brief look at what’s coming up in future months:

Thursday, October 9 2014

Menu  Beef stroganoff, mash potatoes, peas and carrots and dessert.

Entertainment :  “The Train to Maine:  Stories and Songs, Past, Present & Future”    Featuring Tony Donovan, Richard Grandmasion and Center Director, Mitch Thomas.
Congressman Mike Michaud (Honorary Director, Franco Center Board) will also speak about highlights from his service on the U.S. House Transportation Committee.

Doors open at 10:00 a.m. (no earlier), lunch is served 11:30 am. Entertainment gets underway at around 12:30 and continues until 1:15 to 1:30 pm. La Rencontre is not restricted to French-speakers or even those of Franco descent. All are welcome.

At the same time, part of our enjoyment of this gathering is knowing that most of those in attendance come specifically to converse in French, a practice that was officially forbidden at many workplaces in the last century and that was, under a 1919 Maine law, prohibited from being spoken in schools except specifically in French classes. And so if English is overheard being spoken, its speaker may be asked to make a small donation of a quarter; all in good fun, of course, while also serving as a reminder of those days — which are thankfully over — when speaking French openly might earn detention for a student or a reprimand from a supervisor.

This is our family table, and we invite you to join us to share your own stories. La Rencontre is funded in part by generous support from TV5MONDE, whose monthly printed viewing guides are available at each event.



Upcoming Performances

  • Nov

    Children of Haiti Benefit Concert

    Nov 28 - Nov 28

    7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Denny Breau Feb 27 2008The Concert features an all-star lineup with Denny Breau, Arlo West, Kathy Haley, Phil House, Shawna Haley-Bear, Malinda Liberty, Frank Coffin and the Tinpanic Steel Band.

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  • Dec

    Christmas with Joelle Morris

    Performance Hall

    Dec 6 - Dec 6

    7:30 pm - 9:30 pm

    Morris for Website

    Come celebrate the holidays with Mezzo-Soprano Joëlle Morris, pianist Bridget Convey and flutist Christopher Lansley, as they set the mood for Christmas by featuring colorful carols from around the world including those of France and Quebec.

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  • Dec

    Just Us Christmas Concert

    Performance Hall

    Dec 7 - Dec 7

    2:00 pm - 4:00 pm

    Start your holiday season with “JUST US” Entertainers Christmas Show.  This “Big Show” features Christmas songs rarely heard performed by other artists.

    “JUST US” is an eclectic group of families and friends who have been performing great music for generations.   All music is performed live, and songs are learned by ear, no sheet music! Harmony comes from within the hearts of each talent.  Some of this year’s songs include Christmas in America, Sugarland’s Gold and Green and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

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  • Dec

    La Rencontre in December

    Heritage Hall

    Dec 11 - Dec 11

    11:30 am - 1:30 pm

    paris french label

    Franco-American tradition will be on full display at the Franco Center with a Christmas ham dinner followed by carols sung in French by a small choir at the next La Rencontre on Thursday, December 11, starting at 11:30 a.m.  The cost of the meal and program is $8 per person.


    Doors open at 10 a.m.   Attendees may contact the Center office for reservations at 689.2000; leave a message or the office hours are Monday thru Friday from noon to 4 p.m.  Reservations must be placed by Tuesday at 4 p.m.  Email reservations may be sent to boxoffice@francocenter.orgLa Rencontre is not restricted to French-speakers or even those of Franco descent.  All are welcome to attend this fun monthly meal and event.


    After a lunch of baked Black Oak ham, scallop potatoes, string beans and carrots, bread and butter, and a Noel Surprise for dessert, a group of singers led by Roger Bouffard will perform a set of Christmas carols that are sure to transport patrons back to a time when the Franco Center was still known as St. Mary’s Church and French-language Christmas music was the norm inside the building during the holiday season.


    Executive director Mitch Thomas advises not waiting until the last minute, since the Franco Center’s Heritage Hall will likely reach full capacity days before the registration deadline for this particular event.

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  • Dec

    Holiday in Lights

    Performance Hall

    Dec 20 - Dec 21

    7:30 pm - 1:00 pm

    Mitch Holiday in LightsYou won’t want to miss “Holiday in Lights”, with Mitch Thomas and Friends.   Thomas, a local pianist/singer/songwriter who is the Center’s executive director and directs and performs at Community Little Theatre, will present several seasonal favorites, including some of his own compositions and arrangements, including “Light A Candle for Peace”.

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