“We have the responsibility that no Mozart be murdered.”
The good is achieved through beauty.” This is how Gregory Charles sums up Piano and Voice, the 2017 Cardinal Léger benefit concert he will host with tenor Marc Hervieux on November 5 at Maison symphonique. This major musical charity event — a benefit for the Léger Foundation’s Feed a Child program — also features two young musicians from the Radio-Canada television show Virtuose. This performance benefits from the chemistry between Gregory and Marc. Both artists are characterized by their refusal to compartmentalize artistic work. Their unbounded love for music is part of an interactive artistic plan aimed at the public.
“There is a personal connection between the Léger family and me,” says Gregory Charles. At several points during the interview he discusses the shared sensitivity he has with Léger Foundation staff to make the world a fairer and better place for children and youth. The multidisciplinary artist is convinced that this event will be a memorable one, as it plans to showcase the generosity of individuals committed to humanitarian efforts, such as the various programs launched by Léger Foundation including Feed a Child. The latter program is intended to improve the lives of more than 60,000 vulnerable children and families across Quebec.
Gregory Charles talks about the synergy between him and his colleague Marc Hervieux over the years, especially with regard to the many musical genres that this concert will feature, including classical, jazz, and popular music. This synergy, he says, has taken them to “unexpected places.” “The chemistry we share makes our collaboration so rewarding,” he says, while mentioning the positive impact that their collaboration has had on the public. The obvious chemistry between this successful pair makes their many performances all the more enchanting.
“Life is too short to deny oneself the emotional benefits obtained from art,” says Charles, who does not hide his distaste for snobbery and elitism. “Happiness comes from surpassing myself,” he maintains. “My happiness also hinges on my ability to play a positive role in society and perform my citizen duty.”
This was the goal he set with his Virtuose series, encouraging viewers to explore and open their hearts to young, talented musicians aged 9 to 17, who play classical, jazz, opera, and traditional music across Canada. “Marc and I are pleased to take part in a program honouring collegiality and team spirit. The Léger Foundation has been doing just that for years,” Charles notes, referring to the organization’s ambitions and “surprising successes.”
Charles himself has hosted about fifty benefit concerts a year for almost twenty years; this is his moment to call upon colleagues for generosity and citizen spirit despite their tight schedules. He knows that most will not want to miss an opportunity to participate in an entertaining concert that also benefits the Léger Foundation and its mission.
“We choose to be entertainers”
When asked why working with Marc Hervieux is so successful, Gregory Charles acknowledges that he and Marc could have pursued artistic careers with a more personal and introspective approach. “Instead, we choose to be entertainers — artists less focused on ourselves and more focused on the public in an interactive spirit,” he says. The common sentiment that strengthens his collaboration with this “great lyric singer who lends his technique and voice to various musical styles,” as Charles describes Hervieux, is an emphasis on appreciating a diversity of musical expressions and rejecting barriers. “We don’t like to build walls!” Charles stresses.
Tribute to Mother’s piano method
“I was taught that we have the responsibility of keeping young Mozarts alive,” Charles says. He believes that social responsibility toward citizens is “a catalyst for other individuals to fulfill their potential and surpass themselves.” This awareness has inspired the versatile artist — musician, television and radio host, artistic director, dancer, singer — and his career conveys a cultural mix based on his English, French, and Latin American backgrounds.
“Become a pianist in 8 months” is the theme of a new course Charles designed at Gregory’s Academy. The online lessons offer a piano lesson tutorial guided by a technique he learned from his mother. She was his first piano teacher, one who taught him a regular, ten-minute practice pattern and showed him how to move away from print music and listen to music by ear. As a tribute to his mother who died in January, Charles wants her learning method to live on, to touch other people, and to become accessible to as many people possible.
TRANSLATION: Dwain Richardson
Piano and Voice: Cardinal Léger Benefit Concert with Gregory Charles and Marc Hervieux. November 5, 2017, Maison symphonique de Montréal. www.leger.org.
Gregory’s Academy www.academiegregory.com