Symphonic harmonium, to dream again

Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier hosted the Montreal premiere ofStories Without Words – Symphonic Harmonium. A large-scale show that will not only have satisfied the fans of this cult group.

Posted at 7:00 a.m.

Emmanuel Bernier
special cooperation

Trois-Rivières had the good fortune last spring to host the premiere of this production celebrating the music of Harmonium. Montreal is now hosting what is somewhat pompously referred to as “Chapter II”.

The latter is divided into a “trilogy”: “The High Mass” at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Church, which was to take place at the beginning of September and will finally be given in mid-November, “The Original Creation”, which is the subject of this report, and “La pure symphonie”, scheduled for January at the Maison symphonique.

Symphonic harmonium to dream again


The choir ofStories Without Words – Symphonic Harmonium

These three formulasStories Without Words – Symphonic Harmonium exploit the content of the eponymous disc launched two years ago, but in slightly different locations and packaging. It would therefore be pointless for someone who attended the show at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier to travel to see the rest of the trilogy, unless they were an aficionado.

Those who had perhaps expected to savor the poetry of Serge Fiori and Michel Normandeau will be left unsatisfied, since – as the title announces – not a word is heard throughout the evening.

The two appearances of singers Kim Richardson and Luce Dufault (who emerges from a kind of mossy rock!) are therefore reduced to singing on vowels. Ditto with the Chœur des jeunes de Laval, placed in the foreground sides.

The show therefore relies above all on the quality of the music (a kind of best of of the three discs), mainly by Serge Fiori, with the occasional help of Michel Normandeau and Neil Chotem.

And what music! Fiori is really not the first guitar player to come, despite the fact that he remains self-taught (he was nevertheless immersed in music very young, rubbing shoulders with his jazzman father).

Several facets of Harmonium

The original scores (in particular those of the last two albums) were already quite complete in themselves, but the arranger Simon Leclerc managed to magnify them by bending them to the discipline of the symphony orchestra. Woodwind solos, clever counterpoints, contrasting accompaniments… everything helps to highlight the different facets of Harmonium’s music. The punctual contribution of Sylvain Quesnel’s guitar makes it possible to get closer to the colors of the original albums.

We should also mention the energetic direction of chef Dina Gilbert. Some tempos seem fast, but this kind of large-scale show certainly allows less flexibility in this regard.

Because great deployment there is! To pass through these 140 minutes of music, the public is invited to a kind of fantastic tale taking advantage of impressive projections signed Marcella Grimaux, of Noisy Head Studio, but also of extras who come from everywhere.

Spectators are not left out, with remote-controlled luminous devices that they are invited to wear around their necks when they enter the hall. A choice whose meaning escapes us, however.

A park bench descends from a huge skylight in the ceiling. A man dressed in old-fashioned clothes (a 1950s office clerk perhaps) reads the newspaper, but is soon prompted by a child to come out of his torpor. Then comes a handful of somewhat evil-looking bunnies staring quizzically at the audience.

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The staging is great. Stories Without Words – Symphonic Harmonium.

The projections will then take these different characters on a journey through the bowels of the Earth and into an enchanted forest. Are we at Dante’s? At Verne perhaps? At the end, the man wonders if it was all a dream.

An allegory of the power of art to transport us to unexpected lands? Of a Quebec awakening to new dreams during the Quiet Revolution? Who knows.

A visibly very expensive show – which will probably have to turn elsewhere to be profitable –, a little long at times, especially if the music of Harmonium is less familiar to us, but which constantly keeps the senses awake. And finally makes you want to (re) immerse yourself in the princeps version to savor the Fiorian verb.

We would like to give thanks to the writer of this write-up for this awesome material

Symphonic harmonium, to dream again

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