by Sabina Clarke

Flourtown guitarist, pianist and vocalist Lucie Daigle, in her 50s, is carving her own niche after 17 years as the voice fronting 6-Pack, a local rock cover band that has performed at many Chestnut Hill area venues over the years.

Her bold new act, “Women’s Songbook,” includes an expansive playlist of songs by her favorite female artists, including Mary Chapin Carpenter, Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Nicks, Christie McVie, Cheryl Crow, Tracy Chapman, Carole King, Aretha Franklin and Peggy Lee with an impressive collection of Joni Mitchell tunes not often performed live.

In addition to her music career, Lucie has been a psychiatric nurse, a college professor at Laval University in Quebec, a high school French teacher at Mount St. Joseph’s Academy in Flourtown and she ran her own translation agency with mostly medical and legal clients.

At her maiden performance at the Mermaid Inn in August, this stunning and diminutive woman with a voice tinged with her native French Quebec, packed the house. She captured the standing-room-only crowd with a brilliant show that concluded with an amazing rendition of “Autumn Leaves” in French and English.

Also powerful was a soulful rendition of a Bessie Smith song, “Need A Little Sugar in My Bowl,” which has the same chord progression and haunting mood as “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out,” a song made famous by the late blues singer Nina Simone.

Born in French Quebec City, (her ancestors settled there in the 1600s), this 7th generation daughter of an orthopedic surgeon and operating room nurse was educated at the Convent de Notre Dame in Levis, a city across the river from Quebec. “My great grandmother went to Notre Dame, as did my grandmother, my mother, my sister, my daughter, and my two nieces.”

She remembers walking a mile-and-a-half to school every day in the frigid cold and coming home to a hearty lunch of peasant food with “maple pies, maple pudding, maple butter, delicious stews, homemade bread and butter and cream and more butter.”

French was the spoken language at home and at school, so both the English language and American music were foreign to Lucie until she attended McGill University. Her roommate, Maggie Tuttle, introduced her to her brother, Richard, and to the music of Joni Mitchell, who became Lucie’s idol, “I was in awe. This was when I started finger-picking on the guitar. This was very complex stuff. Joni Mitchell’s music is amazing.”

Having grown up with the music of her French heritage such as that of Yves Montand, Jacques Brel, Francois Hardy, Edith Piaf, and Harmonium, a French/Quebecois group, the discovery of American music was an adventure she embraced with gusto.

“When I first heard the Beatles, I didn’t understand the words, and I didn’t grow up with Motown, so I had to learn both the words and music at the same time. I had never heard old standards like ‘As Time Goes By’ before, and when I first sang ‘Proud Mary’ by Tina Turner and Gershwin’s ‘Summertime,’ I was so excited. These are songs that everyone takes for granted, but for me, learning these songs was a huge challenge.”

Lucie’s entire family — her husband Richard, an attorney and bass guitarist in her band, her daughter Catherine Tuttle, a talented pianist and singer/songwriter, and her son, Patrick, a pilot for a regional airline in Quebec and also a drummer and guitarist — all speak French  fluently and are all musicians.

She recalls her daughter Catherine saying to her when she was eight years old, “Mommy, you always have a tear in your voice.” By that, she meant emotion. Both of her grown children live in Quebec.

Several years ago, I was stopped in my tracks listening to Lucie sing “La Vie En Rose” on stage at Philadelphia International Airport while a passing stewardess sat down, overcome with tears, so moved was she by Lucie’s performance. It was the closest to Piaf in emotion and perfection that I have ever heard.

What made her decide to leave the safe haven of the bands she has performed with? “There were so many songs and so much music that I didn’t get a chance to play, and I needed to get all that music out there. I love the idea that at my age and at this stage in my life, I can do it and inspire other women to do the same. Women have supported me all along.”

While volunteering at the National Greyhound Adoption Center, Lucie fell in love with and eventually adopted two female greyhounds, Ella and Billie, as in Fitzgerald and Holiday. “Both dogs are bilingual since I speak to them in French and English, and both are music lovers. They sit between the amps at our rock and roll rehearsals.”

Years ago on a visit to Philadelphia, her parents heard her sing publicly for the first time at Biddle’s café in Ambler, next to the train station. “My father cried, he had no idea that I sang. I was 40 years old.”

Ed. Note: Lucie Daigle, who unfortunately has no singing gigs scheduled in the area in the near future, is one of the 21 Philadelphia performers featured in the documentary exhibit, “Celebrate Philadelphia Performers,” now on display at the Free Library, 19 and Vine, first floor, West Gallery, through Nov. 27. She can be reached at lucie_que@yahoo.com.