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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 16, No. 8

Montreal Chamber Festival Rebounds and Expands

by Wah Keung Chan / May 2, 2011

Flash version here

“It all begins with love and passion,” says Denis Brott, founder and artistic director of the Montreal Chamber Music Festival, now entering its 16th season. Like many arts groups, the MCMF faced large deficits in 2008 and 2009 during the heart of the financial crisis. “We had to make lean and mean cuts,” said Brott, who attributed support from artists and partners for weathering the financial squeeze. Tough times or not, Brott said he always strove to present the best possible chamber music at the Festival.

This year the MCMF's annual Gala fundraiser—held in April and featuring Karina Gauvin and Michael McMahon—attracted 230 paying guests and netted $150,000, double last year’s total. The Festival was able to wipe its deficit clean and push forward its plans to expand.

According to Brott, the secret to organizing a successful fundraiser is to choose a strong honorary president and to have an active honorary committee. Thanks to Brott’s passion and vision, the MCMF has been able to attract some heavy hitters. Last year’s event was shepherded by Sylvie Demers, VP of TD Waterhouse, and this year’s Gala was presided over by John Paul MacDonald, Senior Vice President, Human Resources and Public Affairs of Bombardier. In addition to MacDonald and Demers, the 2011 Gala committee included John Rae of Power Corporation, while the honorary committee included John Parisella, David Azrieli, Christine Marchildon, Lynn Jeanniot and Peter MacAuslan. As co-hosts of the Gala, the MacDonald-Demers duo brought prestige, confidence and flair to the successful evening.

In addition to the ticket revenue, half of the proceeds came from a highly successful silent auction of such diverse luxuries as rare wines and a week’s stay in the Turks and Caicos. “This year, the value of the items was triple the previous year’s auction,” said Davis Joachim, the festival’s administrator. “The secret is just getting the right objects for your crowd and getting the right buyers. Each auction item must be presented properly and to the right people.”

With a bit of financial cushion, Brott plans to expand the festival to include winter season concerts in Montreal. Further, following a successful private concert in New York this past March, he plans New York events next season that promote Canadian talent and promising young artists. “We’ve had a five-year plan to expand, which was always postponed due to lack of funds,” said Brott. “Now we can move on it.”

This year’s MCMF will be presented at a new venue, the downtown St. Georges Church at the corner of Peel and de la Gauchetière. It is expected that 13.5% of concertgoers will be tourists. The Festival's 18+ concerts will reach millions in the US via National Public Radio.

May 5 to 28 www.festivalmontreal.org

(c) La Scena Musicale