Free concert: “Dialogues” between East and West

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This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

Despite a challenging year of building a season on shaky foundations, between September 2020 and June 2021, the SMCQ and its Artistic Director Walter Boudreau presented a season of concerts and a festival. A breathless and daring journey that ends in the most beautiful way, by rediscovering a dialogue that has been broken for too long. The result of a co-production between the SMCQ, Marie-Hélène Breault and Ensemble Oktoécho, these Dialogues retrace fifteen years of collaboration between composer Katia Makdissi-Warren and flutist Marie-Hélène Breault, whom we met in preparation for this concert. 

A concert marked by a spiritual ambience

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Marie-Hélène sums up the main features of the concert as follows: “The first aspect that emerges from this programme is the mutual trust that has been reiterated over the years through various projects carried out with Katia, from which most of the programme works are taken. The other facet, linked to this trust, is undoubtedly the great freedom that Katia allows the musicians, whom she considers to be co-creators. And the counterbalance to this freedom is the high level of creativity and artistic commitment required to perform her works. The universe of the composer honoured in the SMCQ Homage Series builds a bridge between the musical traditions and languages of the East and West. Evocative, accessible yet highly researched, airy and spiritual, this universe imposes listening, and suggests the fleetingness of improvisation while leaving a deep imprint on the mind. The flute is accompanied by harp, voice, percussion and piano. The programme is completed by works by Marc Hyland, Caroline Lizotte and an arrangement by Marie-Hélène Breault. Initially, the Dialogues concert was scheduled for May 2020 and therefore prepared before the pandemic. It has been modified somewhat to provide a tremendous spiritual aura that fits in perfectly with the Cocathédrale Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue, where the concert is being performed. This breath of spirituality is found in Ô Virtus, a piece inspired by the edifying life of the 12th-century abbess, composer, philosopher and botanist Hildegarde von Bingen, in Chants du Prophète inspired by the work of poet Khalil Gibran, and in the harp work La Madone, described by composer Caroline Lizotte as “a love song that depicts a mother’s contemplation of her child.”

A “fluid, lyrical, hybrid” writing style

“If the flute is given pride of place in this concert, it is important to understand what type of instrument we are talking about. The concert flute? The nay – traditional oriental flute? Neither and both at the same time. In Katia Makdissi-Warren’s works, the bridge between East and West, coupled with a great mastery of contemporary writing techniques, gives rise to a hybrid sound, a singular colour that implies a work of sound research on the part of the performer: “I modulate my sound with the timbre of the nay in mind, which is more muffled and sometimes more hoarse than that of the modern flute. It is also with this in mind that I approach the various contemporary playing techniques found in Katia’s music (aeolian sounds, breath attacks, embouchure glissandi, microtonality),” Marie-Hélène Breault explains. These oriental colours are also found in the treatment of the harp in La Dame du Nil, a work by Makdissi-Warren that refers to the woman-pharaoh Hatshepsut and is inspired by musical elements specific to Egyptian culture. 

From Dialogue du silence to Dialogue de l’écho

Dialogue du silence, a piece for solo flute dating from 2003, has accompanied Marie-Hélène Breault for almost 20 years. In this concert, the flutist presents a world premiere of an arrangement for four flutes entitled Dialogue de l’écho, featuring flutists Guy Pelletier, Geneviève Déraspe and Jeffrey Stonehouse: “The project of an arrangement for flute quartet came about naturally, after a visit to the Cocathédrale Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue, in the winter of 2020. During this visit, I brought my flute to test the acoustics of the place. I performed my test with excerpts from Dialogue du silence and was struck by the reverberation of the church, which I perceived as quasi-polyphonic echoes of the musical phrases I had just played. From this experience, Dialogue de l’écho was born, an arrangement that I consider a reinterpretation of the original piece. ” 

With the de-confinement measures underway, the concert should succeed in allowing a few pairs of ears to catch the echoes of this “dialogue”, bringing a season rich in the unexpected to a close.

Dialogues, the closing concert of the SMCQ’s 2020-2021 season, will be presented free of charge on Thursday, June 17, 2021 at 7 p.m. at the Cocathédrale Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue in Longueuil. Also available as a webcast.


This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)


About Author

Benjamin Goron est écrivain, musicologue et critique musical. Titulaire d’un baccalauréat en littérature et d’une maîtrise en musicologie de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne, il a collaboré à plusieurs périodiques et radios en tant que chercheur et critique musical (L’Éducation musicale, Camuz, Radio Ville-Marie, SortiesJazzNights, L'Opéra). Depuis août 2018, il est rédacteur adjoint de La Scena Musicale. Pianiste et trompettiste de formation, il allie musique et littérature dans une double mission de créateur et de passeur de mémoire.

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