A Certain Class: Sisters in song

Julien St-Jean

Mansfield et Pontefract Sept 13, 2021

When A Certain Class takes stage, everything falls into place. 

The band knows how to keep up with each other and can tell what role each bandmate will best fit into. They can follow each other’s lead and tell when someone wants to try something new. Even before playing, the bandmates know exactly how to set up their equipment and get straight to work.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that they work together like a well-oiled machine. After all, they’ve been doing it for more than 50 years.

A Certain Class is made up of two sets of sisters – Kathryn and Margaret Dupuis making up the first set, with Aline and Florence Dyelle making up the second. Over the years, the band says they’ve played all across the Pontiac, performing at various bars, events, charity benefits and just about every other venue you can think of.

The band’s catalogue ranges from covers of classic rock to recent pop and even some of Aline’s original songs. “Anything and everything. From Pink Floyd to the Clampetts,” said Aline. The band’s specialties are vocals and harmony, with all four musicians taking turns singing.

No matter what songs they have in a set, one song is sure to come up as a request – “House of the Rising Sun” by The Animals, which always elicits a strong reaction from the crowd.

The band’s name comes from each member’s history of working in education. Prior to their retirement, Margaret worked as a school principal and then a director for online learning, and Kathryn as a school principal. Both remain active in education in a part-time capacity, Kathryn as an English teacher for adult education, and Margaret sings nursery rhymes online to Thai schoolchildren. Aline and Florence on the other hand, are still busy at it, with Aline continuing to work as a bus driver and Florence as an educational assistant.

But things didn’t start off like that. Long before the band was performing as educators with successful careers, they were a group of students starting a band together out of a garage.

Things started when Aline’s cousin invited her to perform along with Margaret at a school in Fort Coulonge. “It wasn’t very long that we found out that I’d become their guitar player,” said Aline. Margaret had already become the band’s bassist.

After that, Kathryn eventually joined in on percussion. At the time, Florence wasn’t performing on stage, but instead kept things moving in the background, working behind the stage and taking care of whatever was needed.

“When they first started, they played in a bar downtown,” said Florence. “When they took their break, they had to go into the kitchen because they were too young to be in the bar.” They recalled that they sometimes spent their time between sets doing homework.

Once it was time for them to enter college, the band went on hiatus for about 10 years. Then in 1989, when life brought them together again, they started performing again. It was around this time that Florence stepped on stage and started performing percussion along with Kathryn.

Though their band’s roster changed a few times over the years, most, if not all, of the bandmates were always women, which was still uncommon at the time. In the early days especially, the four explained, they adopted male-made songs to fit with their own voices.

“Music wasn’t female, music was male,” said Kathryn. “Even up to 20-years-ago, we’d have little girls… who would come to the edge of the stage and say ‘[holy smokes] there’s four women playing music’.”

The four spoke on the importance of music in their own lives as well as how it has all sorts of benefits for mental health, in education, as a means of expression and in a variety of other areas. They explained that music helped them form deep bonds with each other that as educators, they’ve seen music help students in numerous ways.

“Music enhances language,” said Kathryn. “Music is one of those things that allows the mind to do some actual exercises. If you can do patterns in music, you can do patterns in language and math.”

Like sports, she explained, music helps foster a sense of community and belonging in kids while building confidence. Margaret added that learning music can help youth build discipline and a work ethic by serving as a rewarding hobby through which they learn hard work.

“There’s so many people in the world today that for whatever reason, they suffer from anxiety, mental anguish or whatever the case may be,” said Kathryn. “And music is something that no matter what you’re afflicted with, seems to draw people together.” 

The group encouraged youth to pick up an instrument and learn to play, describing a love of music as almost infectious for some, grabbing them and not letting go.

“For me, it’s my happy place,” said Florence. “I’m always happy to play.”

Though the band loves the feeling of playing live in front of a crowd, they say it’s almost more fun to play privately together. They explained that what matters isn’t that you’re playing for a group, rather it’s simply that you’re playing, and doing so alongside your bandmates.

“And once you get that bug, once you see that you’re able to do that as a group, there’s a trust and a confidence there that you attain with these people that you probably never will feel in anything else,” said Kathryn.

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