Symphonic Harmonium |  Harmonium always under the stars

Symphonic Harmonium | Harmonium always under the stars

In 1978, I left my native Gatineau and, crammed into a Renault 5 with “fourteen of my friends,” went to see the show. On the lawn, under the stars, in Jerry Park. He was 17 years old, skinny as a nail, fattened only with herbal tea and many dreams. This marathon, which started around noon, brought together Garolou, Geneviève Paris, Raôul Duguay, Zachary Richard, Jim and Bertrand, and many others.

The highlight of the event was, of course, Harmonium, who took the stage very late. I remember that Serge Fiori, the Greek god of training, wore a tuque probably woven from alpaca wool spun by Peruvian followers of Ayurveda. The group had mainly offered the songs from the Fiori-Séguin album.

Forty-four years later, the music of Harmonium can be heard again, but this time in comfortable armchairs and under the roof of the splendid Cogeco Amphitheater in Trois-Rivières. On Tuesday night, the premiere of the show took place with great fanfare Symphonic Harmonium — Stories Without Words from the album of the same title released in the fall of 2020.

Unlike Jarry Park, I didn’t see macramé ponchos, peasant skirts, and wooden clogs. Indeed, Montreal gratin chic had moved on for this event produced by Nicolas Lemieux, which features the 64 musicians of the Orchester symphonique de Trois-Rivières and the Chœur des jeunes de Laval. All these beautiful people are led by a very fit Dina Gilbert.


symphonic harmonium at the Cogeco Amphitheater in Trois-Rivières

If you’ve listened to the album, know that the show uses the same pieces that Simon Leclerc arranged, taking inspiration from the three Harmonium albums. I immediately warn purists: the amplification of the orchestra is powerful. My old colleague, the late Claude Gingras, who has always defended the natural sound of orchestras, would surely have fainted upon hearing that.

I received this ambitious program (the program is almost two hours long) in the same way that I received the record. I find that there are moments of grace among the 20 pieces offered. But also moments that frankly sound like “fanfare”. This is especially true of rhythmic passages (Today I say hello to life, A musician among many others, Harmonium).

Fortunately, other music by Serge Fiori, Michel Normandeau, and Neil Chotem fit much better into this “symphonic” setting. The hall, the first sky, exile (offered by the presence of Kim Richardson), and like a sage provide a good dose of chills.

Stories without words disc resistance piece If we needed a fifth season, is the one that best passes the ramp. This work (which includes the warm voice of Luce Dufault, decades after that of Judi Richards) is already in a way a small symphony.

And then, it must be said, the music of Neil Chotem, the “seventh member of the group”, who raised the heptad to a higher rank thanks to their compositions and their arrangements, serves this project wonderfully well. This maestro knew from the beginning, in 1976, to integrate into the album (a true masterpiece of our record heritage) the presence of a great orchestra.


It is the conductor Dina Gilbert who conducts the Trois-Rivières Symphony Orchestra in symphonic harmonium.

To finish, we create projections that accompany each of the pieces at the back of the stage. These were created by Noise Head Studio. This is a major asset to the show. And then there is this mise-en-scène by Marcella Grimaux that caused me some perplexity. We lower from the roof a man sitting on a park bench who represents in a certain way “the crazy crisse that walks over the city”, the tormented and isolated being imagined by Fiori for the record the heptad.

A child appears, a kind of Little Prince. He joins the man thanks to a huge ladder. The image is strong and infinitely poetic. Except… We feel like we don’t know what to do with this idea. is fading We wait for something to happen, in vain. After a while, I stopped wondering what people were trying to tell me and focused on the music.

Added to this are rabbits that come and go on stage in an enigmatic way. Many wondered what they were doing there. It’s a nice nod to the cover of If we needed a fifth season created by Louis-Pierre Bougie, a fabulous visual artist who passed away in January 2021.

Despite these few drawbacks, we feel that the public takes immense pleasure in reconnecting with the music of this legendary group. It was not uncommon to hear people humming melodies. The memory machine is hard at work.

It was cool on Tuesday. The wind from the river was doing its job. But we were fine. The last two years were suddenly far behind. In that sense, it could be said that this program is worth all the vaccines in the world.


Serge Fiori hugged chef Dina Gilbert after the show.

chatty spectators

Have we forgotten how to behave in society during the pandemic? Still, there were plenty of chattering viewers on Tuesday night. At my side, with a glass of alcohol in hand, four spectators did not stop talking during the two hours that the show lasted. Behind me, a woman was singing the lyrics out loud.

No matter how hard we stared at these people or shook them to shut up, there was nothing we could do. They were at home.

Last Sunday I saw again the magnificent show For a one night stand in the Maisonneuve Room. Spectators at the party threw their drinks at people asking them to sit down. A skirmish ensued that lasted several minutes. All this during a particularly moving song by Joe Bocan.

It was downright embarrassing.

A little reminder for those who have forgotten this principle: at home, in front of the television, we have the right to speak. In a performance hall or theater, we close the hatch!

Do we agree on that?

The beauty of Trois-Rivières

One of the joys of a visit to the Cogeco Amphitheater is that you can walk through the streets of downtown Trois-Rivières before the show. God, this city is beautiful! Rue des Ursulines is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful avenues in Quebec.

One thing struck me and that is the way the owners of historic buildings on rue des Forges renovate and pamper their property. Nothing to do with those of Place Saint-Hubert or other Montreal streets that let their buildings rot for decades while waiting to pocket the jackpot.

Symphonic Harmonium — Stories Without Words

Symphonic Harmonium — Stories Without Words

In the Cogeco Amphitheateruntil June 4

#Symphonic #Harmonium #Harmonium #stars

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