SMCQ: More ambitious projects than ever

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Like other presenters, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) has had to adjust to the new realities surrounding concert life. In addition to obeying physical-distancing rules on stage and in the hall, SMCQ had doubts about the launch of its season, which takes place in Salle Pierre-Mercure on Sept. 27.

In accordance with health guidelines, the orchestra’s size on stage and during rehearsals has been cut down to a maximum of 12 musicians. The concert begins with two works by Galina Ustvolskaya, Dona Nobis Pacem (1971) and Dies Irae (1973). Although Ustvolskaya supported official Soviet art, she composed her own music in private.

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“She was a one-of-a-kind composer, just like Varèse,” says SMCQ artistic director Walter Boudreau. “Everyone wanted to imitate Ustvolskaya’s style. Her music is haunting, mind-blowing. For me, this music defines the SMCQ mission, which is to discover contemporary works and preserve repertoire that has found a footing over the years.” Keeping the mission of preservation in mind, Boudreau and the SMCQ Ensemble will present Pohjiatuuli by Michel Longtin, a 1983 composition that is “one of the highlights of creation in Quebec over the last 25 to 30 years.”

The Sept. 27 concert will be a test case for SMCQ. “We will see how it goes. I have doubts about the viability of concerts at this time. Everybody knows each other in a contemporary music concert setting. We’re a family! People come not only to listen to music but also to socialize and exchange views. But that will not be possible. Once the concert is over, they will have to leave.”

Attendance will be a major challenge because SMCQ has announced a substantial series of 10 concerts. “Most will be recorded and filmed on the Salle Pierre-Mercure stage,” said Boudreau. “Some will be presented in front of an audience, others won’t. All will be broadcast live online. Our guests will include the Quatuor Bozzini with Les Boréades, the Quatuor Molinari, and members of Quasar. ” Among other notable events, Boudreau points to a recital at the Society for Arts and Technology. Pianist Louise Bessette will once again present Les Planètes with visual projections by artist Yan Breuleux.

In addition, SMCQ will feature an inaugural series of ten radio drama podcasts based on the organization’s history. The long-term goal is to gather all recordings of contemporary works performed by SMCQ since its inception in 1966. This large-scale project will come with a price tag. Where necessary, SMCQ must buy rights held by Radio-Canada, ATMA Classique and Analekta. “Remember, SMCQ traced the path to modernity in music in Quebec,” said Boudreau. “We were the ones who invited composers such as Boulez, Messiaen, John Cage, Xenakis, Stockhausen and Berio. SMCQ was the medium par excellence for the discovery of these composers and this style of music.”

Translation by Dwain Richardson

Vents nordiques…pour chasser la COVID-19 takes place on Sept. 27 at 3 p.m. in Salle Pierre Mercure.

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 médiation musicale, notamment par le biais des nouveaux outils numériques, ainsi que sur la relation entre opéra et cinéma. 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 chargé de cours à l’Université de Sherbrooke. Par ailleurs, il anime une émission d’opéra et une chronique musicale à Radio VM (91,3 FM).

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