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La Scena Musicale - Vol. 17, No. 1 September 2011

Quebec City: A Music Lover's Dream

by Caroline Rodgers / September 1, 2011

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The great pianist Menahem Pressler once said that when he visited Quebec City, he entered a state of mind that made him feel he had to play better than anywhere else. Louise Forand-Samson, artistic director of Club musical de Québec, can recall no greater compliment from an artist.

Part of the Club for 42 years, Forand-Samson knows the cultural scene in the capital city better than anyone else. In her eyes, the residents are very supportive of the cultural scene.

This observation comes as no surprise to people who know the city, a place alive with celebrations and festivals having as their trademark big international events. The Festival d’été de Québec (summer festival)—celebrating its 45th anniversary next year—is one of the city’s leading events. It attracts over 1.5 million visitors annually, making it the biggest outdoor artistic event in Canada.

The city also has more than 20 theatre companies, including Le Trident, Théâtre de la Bordée, Périscope, Niveau Parking and Gros Mécano.

It is also a city of music, home to the Orchestre symphonique de Québec, Club musical de Québec, Les Violons du Roy, Opéra de Québec, Sacred Music Festival, Ensemble Anonymus, Erreur de type 27, Trio Frontenac, Arthur Leblanc Quartet and Les Amis de l’orgue de Québec, among others.

This historically rich, fortified city near Valcartier, one of the most important military bases in the country, has also hosted the International Festival of Military Bands since 1998. Welcoming high-calibre fanfares from around the world, the festival brings in big crowds with its concerts and colourful parades, including those of the Red Army Choir and the Central Band of the Royal Air Force.

Summer 2011 saw the launch of the Québec Opera Festival. Seven shows were offered during the festival, for a total of 33 performances, including the much anticipated The Nightingale and Other Short Fables by Stravinsky, directed by Robert Lepage, which played to a full house four nights in a row. After looking at the numbers on August 8 of this year, the general and artistic director Grégoire Legendre said that they had surpassed their attendance objectives for every event.

Club musical turns 120
This year, Club musical de Québec celebrates its 120th anniversary. Louise Forand-Samson, who likes to joke that she’s just part of the furniture, has had the chance to meet some of the world’s most renowned musicians, who are always delighted to visit Quebec’s capital.

The list of legendary musicians the Club has hosted over the course of a century is astounding. It includes Artur Rubinstein, Claudio Arrau, Isaac Stern, Glenn Gould, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Jessye Norman, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Ivo Pogorelić, Mstislav Rostropovich, and talented duos such as Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire, Gidon Kremer and Kristina Zimmerman, and Murray Perahia and Radu Lupu.

“I have so many amazing memories that I don’t know where to start, like the first time Yo-Yo Ma visited, when he was only 20, or the Alban Berg Quartet or Bryn Terfel,” says Forand-Samson. “Often amazing projects, like the Lupu-Perahia duo, are performed in only three or four places in North America—and Quebec City is one of them.”

In 120 years, the Club has built a solid reputation, with word of mouth helping to attract the world’s best musicians. “We believe that happy artists give better concerts,” she says. “We try to provide them with the best conditions possible so they feel comfortable, right down to the details. Quebec City offers them a gift, and the Grand Théâtre leaves a box of chocolates in their dressing room.”

The most important element is a faithful audience that is both welcoming and enthusiastic. “Our oldest subscriber has been with the Club for 50 years! And on the list of our 1,200 regular concert attendees, between 800 and 1,000 are very loyal and always come back the following year. This loyalty is important because it makes up 85% of our budget.”

According to a Club musical survey, the average subscriber has a high level of education, is financially stable and enjoys culture. It is also interesting to note that 65% of subscribers are also part of other Quebec City musical societies and regularly attend concerts by Violons du Roy, OSQ and Opéra de Québec. “The concerts given in Quebec City are well regulated,” explains Forand-Samson. “Concert societies work together and consult each other to avoid giving concerts on the same evenings. With a limited number of people, we try not to step on each other’s toes. We have a lot of the same subscribers, so we have to make sure there is variety within the array of concerts offered. Each concert society has its own personality; so far, every one has found this collaboration to be beneficial.”

Translation: Aleshia Jensen

See our Quebec City concert listings at http://www.scena.org/calendar/cal.asp?lan=2

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