Orchestre Galileo is the only professional classical music ensemble based in the Upper St. Lawrence Valley. Founded in 2010 by Daniel Constantineau, this ensemble, formerly the Orchestre symphonique de la Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent, was created for the purpose of providing direct access to concert music for citizens of the western part of the Montérégie district. After a decade of activities, this outfit has become one of the more credible cultural institutions in this area of the province. One characteristic sets it apart from all others in Quebec and the rest of Canada, namely, the incorporation of period instruments ranging from 1730 to 1930 into its programs. To ensure the highest quality possible in its performances, the orchestra relies on variable personnel. This policy allows it to hire period instrument specialists to suit its programming needs.
Audiences are afforded the opportunity of discovering a range of musical styles first-hand as well as the timbres of the instruments associated with each. Rather than confining itself to a single period, the orchestra spans the ages and expects its musicians to be versatile enough to play more than a single version of their instrument. For a given concert, players may be called on to use older and newer ones, or change bows in accordance with the requirements of the works at hand. Challenging as the experience may be for the musicians, it also offers a unique listening experience for concertgoers.
Galileo can be proud of inviting top-notch Canadian guest soloists, the likes of Elinor Frey, Marie-Josée Lord and Jean-Willy Kunz, to name but a few. The ensemble has recorded for the ATMA classique label, its 2016 release André Gagnon Baroque short-listed for an ADISQ prize that year. Just last month, on Jan. 19, it pocketed the coveted Opus Prize as finalist in the concert of the year category for the event Opéras!, held in conjunction with the Opéra de Montréal on May 26 and June 6, 2019. The orchestra is steadfast in its commitment to making classical music more accessible to the masses. To that end it has developed outreach programs to educate audiences and draw them in at lesser personal expense.
Constantineau has devised a series of pre-concert talks. What’s more, the ensemble invites student musicians from the region to join it for rehearsals, an initiative aimed at introducing the young to repertoires unexplored in their curricula. Yet another initiative is biglietto sospeso, an innovative incentive that encourages audience members and private donors to purchase tickets for people on social assistance in the area who are unable to afford such concerts.
Translation by Marc Chénard