After media frenzy, Montreal violin busker back on streets

Hours after being thrust into the media spotlight, Mark Landry was back in his usual spot, sleeping under a pile of blankets outside a Montreal Metro station.

Mark Landry, originally from Moncton, N.B., continues serenading pedestrians

Mark Landry plays a song on his brand new violin, which the homeless man received as a gift from the Orchestre Métropolitain and a local violin shop after his old one was stolen. (CBC)

Hours after being thrust into the media spotlight, Mark Landry was back in his usual spot, sleeping under a pile of blankets outside Montreal's Joliette Metro station.

The story of Landry's stolen violin and the new one gifted by a local orchestra on Tuesday was splashed across newspaper front pages and made the top of newscasts.

By the next morning, however, while a video of him performing with his new instrument was being shared online around the world, Landry once again faced the grind of life on the streets.

Mark Landry speaks to a Montreal police officer on Wednesday, a day after the story of his stolen violin made headlines. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)
A Montreal police officer who works closely with street people in the city's east end woke him up from his slumber outside the Metro mid-morning on Wednesday.

She wanted to help settle a dispute he'd had the night before at a dépanneur – a convenience store – nearby.

Friends say Landry, a native of Moncton, N.B., moved to Montreal about 15 years ago, has struggled with mental health problems and substance abuse and is nearly blind.

For years, Landry had a room, sparsely furnished with a mattress on the floor, in a boarding house on Ste-Catherine Street, he said in a short documentary about his life.

But he remains a beloved figure in the neighbourhood.

RAW: Montreal homeless man gets new violin

CBC News: Montreal at 6:00

5 years ago
Mark Landry, a homeless Metro performer whose violin was stolen, is playing once again thanks to Orchestre Métropolitain and La Maison du Violon. 1:32
Daniel Cyr, who lives close to Joliette Metro and sometimes brings Landry warm meals while he's busking, said he seems most at peace when playing the violin.

"For me, I like to take my dogs for a walk. For him, it's his violin," Cyr said.

"People are always surprised by the music he makes."

In an interview with CBC News, Landry had moments of lucidity and others where his speech was disorganized, making him more difficult to follow.

But he seemed unimpressed by all the attention.

Landry said his original violin, which he had reported stolen days earlier, had been located, while his new violin, gifted by the orchestra, was in safe hands at a friend's home.

More than anything, Landry took exception to being referred to as a violoneux, which translates as fiddler, in media reports  — a term he said belittles his skills as a musician.


Benjamin Shingler is based in Montreal. He previously worked at The Canadian Press, Al Jazeera America and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. Follow him on Twitter @benshingler.

with files from Jay Turnbull