The Canadian Music Centre opens to the public and to the future

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The Canadian Music Centre is situated at 1085 Beaver Hall Hill not far from metro Square-Victoria. Its current home used to be a bank. The Montreal Centre, opened in 1973, is a branch of the organization’s Toronto headquarters founded in 1959. A close partnership links the two centres, including an online exchange of digitized musical scores via the CMC’s national website.

The Centre’s director, renowned flutist Claire Marchand, pulls open the large iron door of a large vault that houses some 8000 manuscripts and musical archives, entrusted to the Centre for safekeeping by its 225 accredited composers. Of the 800 registered composers and compositions from all parts of Canada, the majority come from Quebec and Ontario.

The Centre is a showcase and sales catalogue for Canadian music. Once an accredited composer files an original, unpublished composition, the score is digitized and made available in PDF version for download. His/her complete profile (biography, list of works, etc.) appears online. Many institutions as well are affiliated to the CMC: from universities (McGill, Laval, UdeM) to organizations (SMCQ, MSO, Le Vivier, Revue Circuit). And of course many performer ensembles and groups also number among the Centre’s members.

Once a performer requests a paper copy of a given score, the composer must first give his/her permission. The reproduction department then proceeds to duplicate the original score but only after careful editing is done: spacing, “cleansing”, corrections, and so on. In 2015 the Quebec Arts Council awarded a generous grant to the CMC to enable the full catalogue of original works to be digitized. This titanic task is expected to be completed in three years’ time.

Digitization is a priority. This is seen as not only as an answer to growing demand — including from abroad, e.g. Australia, Europe — but also to reduce the risks of hacking. Each composer receives up to 50% of the royalty fees for a download or printed copy of his/her piece.

The catalogue of orchestral scores, available online, is a major reference tool. Likened to the famous Daniels’, it lists more than 800 works. It was launched at last spring’s joint symposium between the Guilde des Musiciens and the International Federation of Musicians.

The CMC has commissioned works in partnership with the SMCQ. Such is the case, for example, with the “Homage” series. This year José Evangelista has been commissioned to write a piece. Accredited composers are also invited to participate in the Quebecor music competition (Concours de Musique Québécoise CMC Québec) by submitting a short work in the “young performers” category. Next year the award goes to organist and composer Rachel Laurin to write a miniature piece for piano.

The CMC is associated with many music competitions intended for Canadian works: Canadian Music Competition, MSO Manuvie Competition, Montreal International Competition (a selection of up to ten pieces), Prix d’Europe. For the Prix Collégien de Musique Contemporaine organized by the Cégep de Sherbrooke, a jury of students picks three scores selected from the CMC catalogue. The awards ceremony is hosted by the Centre’s members and the winning pieces are played in Cégeps all over the province.

Finding treasures in the CMC’s hidden trove means bringing compositions back from oblivion. Copies of works written for the Quebec Pavilion of Expo ‘67 are currently on display in the lobby of Place des Arts. For the centennial of Jean Papineau-Couture’s birth, a fourth string quartet (in one movement) was discovered in the “vault”. A recording of all the string quartets (plus a string trio) performed by the Molinari String Quartet was released last year on the ATMA label. Last August, Ensemble Paramirabo played, to a full house, a concert in memory of the recently departed Gilles Tremblay.

The Centre has recently enlarged its scope of activities, opening up to jazz and world music. Conferences and even concert cycles by composers themselves allow for a direct interaction with the public. In 2016 composers Blais and Leclerc presented their works to an avid crowd of listeners. The mission of Ensemble Kô, a vocal group in residence, is to perform new pieces and works by CMC composers.

Finally, this year, on the occasion of the Journées de la Culture, composer Yves Daoust invited college students to download an application that enables them to compose music on their iPhones. He calls it — yes — the fonofone.

Coming up:
a brand new webpage www.cmcquebec.ca and a revamped logo. The CMC is enjoying its modern beats.

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