La Nef: Styles and fields come together 


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

La Nef is continuing its 30th anniversary celebrations under the general and artistic leadership of Claire Gignac. Though La Nef will present many concerts featuring various musical styles this season, it is currently being noted for its disc production at the start of a new year. On February 5, a concert will take the form of an album presentation, featuring Long Way Home by Andrew Wells-Oberegger, composer and multi-instrumentalist. Six musicians will join him at Montreal’s Maison de la culture Ahuntsic in the Concerts au bout du monde series. On March 10, another production will be led by Artistic Codirector and Music Director Seán Dagher and will feature vocal and instrumental repertoire at the Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Secours Chapel. The album Baratin d’matins will also be launched.  

Artists we stand  

As the ensemble name suggests, La Nef wanted to project an image of a vehicle, offering performers and creative artists from all backgrounds to hop on board with them. Gignac believes that the overlap between musical and artistic styles is in La Nef’s DNA. “It was our desire to organize projects with teams that are always staying current. They are full of freedom of artistic expression and have respect for our travel buddies’ aspirations. A vast range of musicians has hopped on board with us, and other artists have talked to us about their projects. We hopped on board with them to support their work,” she said.  

Sylvain Bergeron, Viviane Leblanc, and Claire Gignac cofounded La Nef. It covers a wide repertoire ranging from early music to traditional music while discovering a blend of creative musical genres and traditions from around the world. The blend of artistic fields makes projects extremely vibrant. “Musiques pour Jeanne la Folle was the first concert we presented 30 years ago. It was a style of musical theatre; interdisciplinarity was always part of our performances back in the day,” said Gignac.  

Early days 

Gignac is a flutist and singer. In the early days, she was in charge of scenic development. “I was either a project designer or codesigner. I also performed in each show in addition to taking on staging responsibilities. I wore many hats!” she said.  

Aside from Musiques pour Jeanne la Folle, there were other projects such as Le Jardin des délices with motion, Le voyage de Pénélope with theatre and dance, contemporary projects such as Urnos with dance, video, museum layouts, and original music by composer André Hamel, Musiques de robinet and Carnets mouillés with music and drawings by Robert Marcel Lepage. 

La Nef’s youth program remains significant. Gignac remembers when Leblanc organized productions for youth in the early days; they often included theatre. Suzanne De Serres replaced Leblanc, specializing as an author in musical tales. What followed were such interdisciplinary productions as Le Chat et le gondolier with huge marionettes from Théâtre sans fil, Ulysse with sand drawings by visual artist Bluto, and L’ombre et le hibou with a shadow theatre. They were presented at Festival Petits bonheurs at Maison de la culture Maisonneuve, where its audio and video equipment are a perfect fit for La Nef productions.

Seasoned artists greet emerging artists 

Emerging artists have been rubbing shoulders with their seasoned counterparts in La Nef, and some of these emerging artists have already played a role in many projects. Others still have become artistic committee members. Gignac is really proud of this generational intersection, saying, “Surprisingly, some artists have been with us for almost 30 years, such as Wells-Oberegger and Pierre-Alexandre Saint-Yves. They both started working for us when they were 20. Dorothéa Ventura has also been one of our artistic committee members for many years. Their teams are really diverse, including musicians who have never collaborated with us and performers who specialize more in world music performances.” 

The album Long Way Home is mostly influenced by music around the world. “Many original compositions were written as part of our own projects. Wells-Oberegger rearranged some of his original compositions, each with their own personality and inspired by Celtic or Middle Eastern music, presenting instrumentation unique to each style,” said Gignac. 

Some instruments, such as the nyckelharpa, qanun, bansuri, and chalumeau, are featured on Baratin d’marins, an album produced entirely by La Nef. Produced by Gignac, the album presents a vocal and instrumental ensemble. “As the album name specifies, the repertoire features traditional sea shanties from Quebec, especially France. Original arrangements are written for solo voice and a mixed chorus.”  

Other projects will follow, including a youth production created by Saint-Yves in May. Submarine videos are being edited now. Saint-Yves initially used these videos to produce the show Sous les eaux, where he, the composer, and his team members created the story and characters. “Be prepared to explore another universe,” said Gignac.  

Translation by Dwain Richardson 

Visit for more information regarding albums La Nef produced or coproduced. 

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


About Author

Justin Bernard est détenteur d’un doctorat en musique de l’Université de Montréal. Ses recherches portent sur la vulgarisation musicale, notamment par le biais des nouveaux outils numériques, ainsi que sur la relation entre opéra et cinéma. En tant que membre de l’Observatoire interdisciplinaire de création et de recherche en musique (OICRM), il a réalisé une série de capsules vidéo éducatives pour l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal. Justin Bernard est également l’auteur de notes de programme pour le compte de la salle Bourgie du Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal et du Festival de Lanaudière. Récemment, il a écrit les notices discographiques pour l'album "Paris Memories" du pianiste Alain Lefèvre (Warner Classics, 2023) et collaboré à la révision d'une édition critique sur l’œuvre du compositeur Camille Saint-Saëns (Bärenreiter, 2022). Ses autres contrats de recherche et de rédaction ont été signés avec des institutions de premier plan telles que l'Université de Montréal, l'Opéra de Montréal, le Domaine Forget et Orford Musique. Par ailleurs, il anime une émission d’opéra et une chronique musicale à Radio VM (91,3 FM).

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