Orchestral quarantine: L’Ensemble contemporain de Montréal – Get it done

par Réjean Beaucage

Cancellation, postponement, de-quarantining, a possible second wave… What will autumn look like? How to reconcile concerts and social distancing? In our new dossier series, we’ve asked the artistic directors of Quebec classical ensembles and orchestras a few questions, to get a sense of what’s in the works. Fifth subject in our series: Véronique Lacroix, artistic director of l’Ensemble contemporain de Montréal.

The program L’Outre-rêve – Récits initiatiques transfrontalatiques was to be premiered in May by L’Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, and then… On June 9, we spoke with its artistic director, to discuss the turmoil that current events are causing in the ensemble’s activities.

“With L’Outre-rêve,” Véronique Lacroix explains, “we’re talking about a big production. It’s a multidisciplinary project that has been in the works for two and a half, three years. I’ve heard theatre people talk about the long preparations required for their productions, but to tell you the truth, our schedule isn’t that much different… And so, when one has to postpone a show like this, there are 25 people you have to contact…”

The ECM+ also has other projects on the schedule, so this big production, based on compositions by Myriam Boucher (Canada), Annesley Black (Canada/Germany), Snežana Nešić (Germany), and Symon Henry (Canada), will finally be presented in September… 2021. 

“Yes,” Lacroix explains, “because in 2020, we already have our Génération 2020 tour. We divided it into two parts – the first one in the fall, with a concert in Montreal on October 20 at Salle Pierre-Mercure, and the other one in May.”

October, really? 

“Playing with a distance of two meters between each musician, we can do that… We’ve done much worse than that! Of course, there are all the other health instructions, but it doesn’t seem insurmountable. It remains to be seen whether we’ll be allowed to give shows and gather small crowds, and after that… we have to see if the public will show up… In the event that we can’t get people to show up, we’ll broadcast an event on the web, because we can’t postpone our productions forever. Once the composers have done their job, we have to find a way to do our job.”

Fortunately, the financial situation of the ECM+ is good, and with the help of the aid measures made available, the artisans of L’Outre-rêve reporté were able to get remunerated.

“It’s still a lot of money,” says Lacroix, “because it’s a big production, with dance, singing, electro-acoustic music, video, poetry, etc.”

Enough, in short, to draw an audience into a room.

“I don’t think we really have a problem with that,” she says, “because we don’t play a lot of gigs, and every time we do, we go out and get it done. And we’re a little bit used to having to convince people to take an interest in our concerts, to make them understand the cultural importance of our research and development mandate.”

Lacroix also conducts the wind ensemble and the contemporary music ensemble of the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal, and… on that side as well, of course, things are at a standstill.

“Well, things seem to be calming down at the moment, but it’s very difficult to live with and manage because you can’t decide anything, you have to multiply the scenarios, it ends up being exhausting!”

To be continued…

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