The Men Behind the Music: An Evening in Paris is a unique concert that uses a film as a backdrop.
It takes the audience through the miraculous and dramatic rebirth of Paris after it had been brutally attacked by the Prussian army in 1870. The world had little faith that the city of Paris would recover, but the next 30 years turned out to be an incredible rebirth of culture and art amongst a thriving population.
In this innovative production, film segments are used to replace traditional programme notes; they introduce the audience to the life and times of the composer before each composition is heard.
The audience learns distinctly non-traditional information: what people thought of the composers when they were alive, their faults, their relationships, etc. The audience also gets immersed in the period of the compositions: what was life like back then?
SCENE asked event creator and flutist Haley Rempel to fill us in on how storytelling can enhance the musical experience:
As a music student growing up, part of my education was to study music history. I learned all of the standard facts and dates that teachers have their students know but, luckily for me, I had a wonderful teacher who gave me a slight glimpse into another side of classical music, and into the fact that there's a whole new, fascinating side of classical music that is rarely discussed.
I started to look into the real history of classical music on my own and it didn't take much digging to realize that I had stumbled upon something fascinating. I learned about what people thought of the composers when they were alive; I learned about their relationships, their flaws; and it blew me away.
Once I learned a new fact or story, I'd share it with a few audience members after concerts--they were enthralled! I began to see how their interest and their perception of the music changed with this new knowledge. And, at that point, I began to have this desire to share this side of history with all of my audiences during concerts.
During the life of Mozart, Vivaldi and many other composers, audiences didn't sit silent during concerts. They ate, drank, walked around and cheered as the piece was being performed! Knowing this gave me an incredible feeling of freedom, as I no longer felt like I was breaking a 400-year-old code of concert behaviour.
In addition to that, the people back then knew the composers as people: they knew of Mozart's quirky behaviour, they read about Handel's temper in the tabloids.
And this quickly became my goal: to reintroduce composers as people, to bring back the human and interactive nature of concerts, and to discover what inspired these composers so much that they wrote music that seems to have made them immortal.
The Men Behind the Music: An Evening in Paris will be held at Salle Pauline Boutal at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre on June 27 at 7:30. Haley Rempel will be joined by soprano Maria Luz Alvarez, harpist Grace Cloutier and pianist Michael Oike in music by Debussy, Ravel, Satie and more.