McGill Chamber Orchestra: Education is its mission

La Scena Musicale's Discovery Box

With a long tradition of educational initiatives, the McGill Chamber Orchestra (MCO) stands out on the Montreal scene season after season. Founded in 1939 by composer and conductor Alexander Brott, the MCO over the years has established many collaborations to bring music to a younger audience while offering a special place to emerging musicians and composers.

“Education is the root of art,” according to MSO artistic director and conductor Boris Brott. For example, the MCO regularly collaborates with the Jeunesses Musicales du Canada (JMC), Opera McGill the Atelier lyrique of the Opéra de Montréal, the Opera Cares Foundation and the Pro Musica Society. These collaborations aim to make classical music shine more and more in Montreal. They allow Brott to “open doors rather than close silos.”

The MCO’s educational concerts are at the center of its mission. In addition to promoting music, these concerts address social issues such as bullying (Beethoven and the Bully) and inclusion (Isabella Tarantella). It is important for the MCO that music be recognized as a universal language for connecting cultures and social classes. The MCO presents alternately concerts written by youth author Ardyth Brott and JMC artistic director Daniel Leblanc.

It is with pride that the MCO presents, in collaboration with the JMC and the Azrieli Foundation, the Annabelle Canto youth concert. Brott describes the concert, featuring soprano Christina Tannous and pianist Dominic Boulianne, as “entertaining,” meaning that it combines entertainment and education by directly engaging young audiences. Annabelle Canto has enjoyed great success since its inception in 2008. This will be a perfect opportunity to introduce young people to lyrical art and orchestral music. As Brott points out, “education is not only for future musicians, but also for future clients and donors of cultural organizations.”

Also in collaboration with the JMC, the MCO will accompany the singers of the JMC opera workshop in the Montreal presentation of Mozart’s Don Giovanni. After a tour of Quebec and the Maritimes, the singers will have the opportunity to perform at the Monument-National with a full orchestra. The production is staged by Oriol Thomas and will feature Geoffroy Salvas (Don Giovanni) and Odéi Bilodeau (Donna Elvira).

Still on the lyrical scene, the MCO is collaborating this year with Opera McGill in a production of Bernstein’s Candide. Assistant to the famous conductor at the New York Philharmonic in 1968-1969, Brott is delighted to celebrate the Bernstein’s 100th anniversary this way. Presented from March 23 to 25 at McGill’s Pollack Hall, Candide will allow student singers to work with a professional orchestra.

The MCO is committed to supporting the next generation. Naturally it hires young soloists during the regular season. The Virtuoses concert will welcome Serhiy Salov, piano, and Bomsori Kim, violin, two laureates of the Concours musical international de Montréal (CMIM). Among other works, Alexander Brott’s Cupid’s Quandry for violin and strings will be heard.

In collaboration with the St. Lawrence Choir and the vocal group Phoenix, the MCO also chose as soloists two emerging singers, soprano Andréanne Brisson Paquin and mezzo-soprano Marie-Andrée Mathieu, for Bach’s St. John Passion. These young artists represent the best of the emerging voices in Quebec. It is with great pleasure that the MCO supports their respective careers.

Always looking for talent to nourish, the MCO is proud to have developed a mentorship program to support and guide young professional musicians in partnership with the Opera Cares Foundation. This program aims to prepare emerging professional musicians for the requirements of professional life. During the 2016-2017 season, around 30 musicians benefited from this program by receiving advice on communications, business strategy and injury prevention. It also distributed grants within the orchestra based on the standards established by the Quebec Musicians’ Guild.

Following the same idea, the MCO focuses on playing and commissioning Canadian pieces. Indeed, many composers were able to air their work for the first time with the desire to let local talents shine. Such was the case for the composer Maxime Goulet who, as a composer in residence, had the chance to hear his work Hymnes unis several times last season. In October 2018, it will be Barbara Croall’s turn to present for the very first time a work commissioned by the MCO.

Brott vigorously defends the importance of music to society. “Music is not just entertainment,” he says. “It plays a fundamental role in the development of new creative ideas. Without this creativity, there is no place for developing new ideas, new products or new communication techniques. Society stagnates.”

Annabelle Canto will be presented on May 17 at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Théâtre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts.

Virtuoses will take place on Feb. 13 at Bourgie Hall, in collaboration with the Pro Musica Society.

Candide will be presented from March 23 to 25 at McGill University’s Pollack Hall.

Bach’s St. John Passion will be performed March 28, 2018 at 7:30 pm, at Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church.


Translated by Viviane Reid

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