A nature greater than music

Two institutions are connecting these days to a musical awareness of nature and climatic phenomena. Les Boréades, with the concert-documentary Transtaiga presented on Sunday, then the National Arts Center, through the Sphere festival, which will be held from September 22 to 25.

“Immense, impenetrable and proud nature, you alone give a truce to my endless boredom. […] Forests, rocks, torrents, I adore you! Worlds, which sparkle, towards you rushes the desire of a heart too vast and of a soul thirsty for a happiness which flees it. »

The famous “Invocation to nature” sung by Faust in The Damnation of Faust by Berlioz has rarely been sung so well as by the Quebecer Richard Verreau in Igor Markevich’s recording.

While crossing Quebec from Montreal to Kuujjuaq by bike and canoe during his Transtaïga expedition in 2018, adventurer Samuel Lalande-Markon did not start singing Berlioz in the face of the vastness of nature. Trained in the practice of the tuba, the one who has been in charge of communications for Les Boréades for eight years left with various music, including a little classical, in his phone. “Then in Nunavik, in the middle of a big lake, I started listening to Bach for the first time. I really had a moment of grace with the 3e Partita for solo violin. It stayed, and this trip was inhabited by baroque music. »

From book to show

From Samuel Lalande-Markon’s expedition was born a book, The quest for return, published in 2021 in Blue Hours. So already was fermenting the project of “mixing the literary and poetic aspect, the documentary and the music”. “My entire writing approach is based on the idea of ​​investing the poetic universe, the encounter with the otherness that we feel in the forest and that we feel in music. I wanted to do a conference-concert. Bernard Voyer had already done this. But Francis Colpron, musical director of the Boréades, wanted to go further,” says Samuel Lalande-Markon, whose concert-documentary project Transtaiga will materialize on Sunday at 4 p.m. at Salle Pauline-Julien.

Director Anne Millaire made a reduction of the book, and Samuel Lalande-Markon and Francis Colpron chose the music. “It’s really a concert-documentary”, underlines the explorer. In doing so, the project fed by projections is part of new initiatives for access to music, for example the show Transfiguration by Valérie Milot and Stéphane Tétreault, immersed in a cinematographic digital universe.

Samuel Lalande-Markon will share the stage with an actor who will carry the more poetic dimension of the story. Over the course of the encounter with the territory, “this separation between two dimensions of myself will converge. The territory makes it possible to refocus on a human dimension”, analyzes the author.

The musical score is certainly based on Bach and the French baroque, but also sweeps the history of music from Van Eyck to Arvo Pärt. Francis Colpron points out that “the nature of Baroque music is not primarily descriptive music. She talks a lot about symbolism and rhetoric. It was this rhetoric that turned Samuel on”. Francis Colpron, for example, considered that French music could be appropriated “because of its excess”.

Some music was imposed after the adventure itself: “In scenes where we wanted to represent a state of grace, we came across Polymnia de Rameau and we were stunned, even though I hadn’t listened to him at the time. »

The 3e Partita, which had marked the explorer so much during his journey, will be played by Olivier Brault. Bach now accompanies Samuel Lalande-Markon in the most amazing way: “Often, on my bike, I leave with the Passion according to Saint Matthew, but with the wind in the headphones, sometimes you can’t hear anything from the recitatives. On the other hand, the theatrical and dramatic effect works well! »

Images will be projected backstage, and additional visual material has been shot in recent months by Simon Jolicoeur-Côté. “There were a few images missing. Samuel Lalande-Markon mentions in particular a drone shot over the Chutes-de-la-Chaudière: “The Boréades play the kyrie of the Mass on instruments by Charpentier on these images, and we are caught up in the beauty of what we see and hear. »

“It’s the exploration of our territory, adds Francis Colpron. The Boréades, that comes from borea. We are people of the North; we have a fabulous territory ahead of us and we don’t talk about it enough. »

Multidisciplinary initiative

Very ambitious, Sphere brings together four festival days in Ottawa, from September 22 to 25, devoted to the Earth in times of climate crisis and loss of biodiversity. Alexander Shelley and Canadian-Icelandic interdisciplinary artist Angela Rawlings conceived this project which brings together composers, instrumentalists, writers, scientists and visual artists from both Indigenous, Canadian and Scandinavian backgrounds, including in a partnership with the Royal Library from Denmark for a series of lectures.

Alexander Shelley is responsible for the musical content, Angela Rawlings managing the whole multidisciplinary dimension. Combining science, arts and music, Sphere will take place at both the National Arts Center and the Canadian Museum of Nature. The linchpin of the project, Stefani Truant insists on this duality: “We will bring science to the National Arts Center and we will bring music to the Canadian Museum of Nature. » Musical capsules were ordered to be associated with pieces in the museum.

The great musical project concocted by Alexandre Shelley during the “Water Day”, September 24, includes works by composers Anna Clyne and Outi Tarkiainen: Restless Oceans and Songs of the Ice. The latter pays tribute to the Icelandic glacier Okjökull declared “dead” by the Icelandic meteorological office in 2014, after it had lost 80% of its mass. Songs of the Ice thus evokes “the slow silent respiration of the terrestrial ice, which swells during the winter and shrinks during the summer, following an ancient rhythm which is gradually being lost”.

Centerpiece of the concert: Become Oceanthe work of John Luther Adams, 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music, a grand seascape soundscape enveloping us in “the sound of rolling waves, rising and receding…not to dissipate, but rather to engulf everything else.” Become Ocean is a work for three orchestras, each of which navigates its own sonic journey before coming together at crucial moments.

“Music is abstract and emotional. What John Luther Adams does is alter the perception of time. Wagner proceeds as follows: he plunges us into a different perception of time, takes us out of everyday life and transports us into a metaphysical experience. had declared to To have to Alexander Shelley last March while setting up the project.

The buzzing of bees

One of the most amazing projects of the Sphere festival will however be the “performance/procession” Your Temper, my Weather. For this event, the National Arts Center was looking for a hundred beekeepers from the region. “We are at 107, professionals and amateurs together who will come with their equipment”, rejoices Stefani Truant. This project by artist Diane Borsato was done in Toronto a few years ago. The beekeepers will converge at the museum and gather there to meditate in silence. After about 20 minutes, a collective hum will set off a silent, meditative procession down Elgin Street towards the National Arts Center and up to the rooftop garden of a building that houses an apiary. The service will therefore end in the middle of the bees. “What’s interesting here is the interplay between the beekeepers’ mindset and the bees. They react to this collective “temperature”. There is also the habit of beekeepers to control their movements, which are generally slow”, emphasizes Stefani Truant.

It should be noted that bees have, alas, become in recent years the symbols of many disruptions, which leads Diane Borsato to argue that “while exploring the tangible effect of collective meditation, the work creates a public platform on which reflect on the health and temperament of bees and their keepers, and on the policies and environmental conditions that affect our common future.”


Concert-documentary, at Salle Pauline-Julien, in Montreal, Sunday, September 18, 4 p.m.


Multidisciplinary Festival, at the National Arts Center in Ottawa, September 22-25

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A nature greater than music