Éric Champagneby Renée Banville
/ October 1, 2014
It wasn’t until adolescence that Éric Champagne began to be interested in music. What a long way he has come since then! The prolific composer with a flamboyant personality hasn’t stopped collecting prizes and awards. At 34, he just finished a two-year residence with the Orchestre Métropolitain and already has some sixty premieres to his name.
A clarinettist by training, he began by writing works for wind orchestras, such as Champ-de-Mars, par jour de lumière, which won an important American composition competition awarded by the University of Oklahoma in 2004. As part of the work for his master’s degree, Champagne decided to create an opera based on the Strindberg play Mademoiselle Julie. In 2005, at the Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal’s composition contest, he took first prize, which meant the commissioning of an orchestral work: Il était beau comme Rimbaud. He classifies this symphonic poem as his “biggest success”. Selected to represent Canada in Sweden, the work was later performed in Toronto and reprised by the OM in April 2013.
Speaking about his two-year residence with the OM, he says, “My residence with the Orchestre Métropolitain was a gift from heaven. I developed a great symphonic repertoire there, but especially, I worked in a very happy environment, surrounded by a fabulous and welcoming team.” His first piece, Exil intérieur, dedicated to Jean-Marc Crête, was written upon the death of the venerated professor who helped him discover music. In his Symphonie no 1, Champagne integrated an excerpt from Mozart’s Requiem to sublimate a musical experience with this professor. For the young audiences, of whom he is fond, he wrote Le jeune blondinet et son tigre philosophe, based on the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips. A second project for the youth dossier at the OM, Lux is written for a youth choir to be reprised on December 5 in a new arrangement for choir and brass quintet.
Champagne recently completed a commission for the Fibonacci Trio, which premiered last May. He is currently working on a quintet for Pentaèdre, which premieres on November 24 as part of the Bach Festival. A commission from Vincent Boucher, the organist at the Oratory, is planned for 2015. Next year, he also plans to produce an octet for saxophones, a string quartet, and a sonata for violin and cello. His Mouvement symphonique no 1 was performed at the OSM in 2012 and will be reprised at the OSQ in April 2015.
Marked by Russian, French, and Nordic colour, Champagne’s compositions are influenced in part by his professors, including François-Hugues Leclair, a great lover of French music. Mahler and Tchaikovsky are his favourite composers. He recently discovered Lutoslawski and Henze, two sources of inspiration that will doubtlessly influence his second symphony.
This dynamic composer, with his imposing physique and thundering laugh, candidly admits to having a guilty pleasure: he loves karaoke! Joe Dassin, Elton John, Beau Dommage, and Frank Sinatra are all great for his voice. Éric Champagne has more surprises in store.
Translation: Rebecca Anne Clark