“You know someone said that the world’s a stage.
And each must play a part.”
— Elvis Presley, quoting Shakespeare
Montreal loves a good show. The city is like one huge stage, where the line between spectator and performer is blurred and the question of where performance begins and real life ends is explored. To live in this city—or even to visit it—is to be open to unexpected theatre, to having your walk detoured. It’s participating in a symphony of the senses.
You would have to be deaf to not hear the music that sets the streets of Montreal thrumming, that makes our blood hum and tremble. Nearly a century ago, thanks to prohibition in the U.S. and the development of the railroads, the black community of Little Burgundy helped to make Montreal a world hub for jazz, competing with the likes of New York City.
Last Saturday, on the rooftop terrace at Ubisoft, French artist Arthur H. and a band of local musicians sent waves of sound across Mile End, the fertile ground that nurtured Arcade Fire, Socalled and other local talents who have made it big on the world stage.
When the weather is fine, Montreal’s public pianos appear across the city, in the Plateau and even atop Mont Royal, inviting strolling passerby to stop and listen to a gentle melody or even attempt a chord or two of their own on the rubbed-down keys. In fact, not too long ago, 17 public pianos played Louis-Jean Cormier’s “Tout le monde en même temps” in unison.
Montreal’s public pianos in unison, by Portraits de Montréal
For those who prefer skins to strings, and dancing on a Sunday, there’s the tam-tams, which started in the time of peace and love and is still going strong at the Sir George-Étienne Cartier monument every weekend. At Piknic Electronik, in Parc Jean-Drapeau, sounds are provided by beatbox and electronics rather than drums, but the concept is the same: dance until the sun goes down and then keep going! Other initiatives, such as LunchBeat Montreal, will go as far as to invite workers to loosen up on electro beats… on their lunch hour!
In winter, our resident musicians are still plying their trade, but this time in the underground, thanks to the STM’s “Étoiles du métro” program. The Piknic becomes Igloofest and even if the windows of your favourite bars are closed and iced over, the cold can’t completely muffle the hot beats of the many local and international artists who keep us warm on the dancefloor.
In summer, music pours out from every public space, from the back-to-back festivals and street fairs, and from the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, which has been known to perform outside in Olympic Park and the Kondiaronk lookout. It can be heard emanating from bars and venues, as well as basements and commercial spaces transformed into rehearsal spaces for the likes of Malajube and Half Moon Run. Even our religious places resonate with another kind of holy sound. And every type of fusion is possible, like Misteur Valaire teaming up with the MSO to perform at the Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste. In short, there is no shortage of music.
Source: Olympic Park
Obviously, music generates significant economic benefits for Montreal. New festivals in the month of August, namely Osheaga and Heavy MTL, are attracting a new class of tourists and managed to beat the Grand Prix in terms of hotel occupany rates. The Piknic now has a cousin in Barcelona. Even relatively niche artists like Poirier are successfully sharing their talents on an international scale. Talented Montreal MC Boogat raps in his mother tongue of Spanish both here and abroad. And when these artists tour the world, they are true ambassadors for the Montreal brand.
Poirier, with Boogat — Que Viva (official video)
i see mtl is looking for projects that could give Montreal new momentum. It would be surprising if a few of them didn’t use music as a key element. Do you have any ideas? Or know people who do? There’s a place for you in i see mtl!