Just imagine the scene. Between 150 and 300 people are gathered in a candle-lit church. One evening a string quartet performed The four Seasons by Vivaldi. The next day the greatest hits of the group ABBA. The day after, a potpourri of the best film music. Candlelight nights are a worldwide phenomenon originating in Spain, with more than 500 performances in Montreal alone.
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Born in Madrid in 2019, the candlelight concept spreads to a hundred cities around the world including Montreal, Quebec, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver before reaching the rest of the world.
You may have witnessed the Fever social media hype. Some people even questioned the veracity of the concerts. “We advertised concerts planned for a few months later during the pandemic when the halls were closed, so maybe people were skeptical,” explains Alexandre Boccardi, events manager in Canada. “As soon as we started, they saw that it was serious. »
Depending on the season and the repertoire desired, audiences can be seated at Christ Church Cathedral, on the terrace of Hotel 10, at the Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours chapel, at Notre-Dame-des-Sept-Douleurs or at the Saint-Jean church -Baptiste.
“We’re not necessarily targeting religious venues, but since we want our concerts to be a multi-sensory experience, we chose venues that have interesting architecture and acoustics that are good for concerts,” says Boccardi.
The first-ever Montreal Candlelight Concert took place at The Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in September 2020, on an evening that combined the fine dining of a Michelin-star chef with the music of the Four Seasons by Vivaldi.
“It was supposed to be a one-off deal, but then we knew it was a test to see how Montreal would react,” says concertmaster Julien Oberson.
When the rooms reopened in March 2021, we were offered to play for 10 days, not knowing it would have such a long lasting effect.
Julien Oberson, first violin
In fact, the quartet performs 10 times a week, Tuesday through Saturday, although some concerts are performed by a pianist or soprano. “It’s very formative, in the sense that you have to perform 10 times a week at the same level,” says the musician. We can’t afford to be tired one night and play less well. It is very demanding for body and mind. »
From Vivaldi to Celine Dion
Fortunately, the repertoire is very diverse. Night after night, the public can discover the classic version of songs by Adele, Queen or Celine Dion, the best soundtracks by the composer Hans Zimmer (gladiator, InterstellarPirates of the Caribbean) and the essentials Out of Bach to the Beatles.
“The mixture of pop and classical opens the door for people who are less familiar with classical music but discover our musical styles that they appreciate before they perhaps one day discover the concerts of large symphony orchestras,” Julien Oberson wishes.
your favorite night? That of ABBA, without the slightest hesitation! “My whole childhood was rocked by their music and the arrangements the company sent us were well done. It’s not always the case. Sometimes we have to rework them before playing them in front of people. »
Occasionally, Montreal musicians present suggestions for repertoires, such as B. Tributes to Celine Dion and the group ABBA, as well as an evening dedicated to folk music and a concert highlighting LGBTQ+ Pride Week.
However, convincing Fever, the international machine behind Candlelight, is not easy. “If you’re not sure if it’s going to sell, it’s more complex to bring to market,” says the musician. Surprisingly, the Celine Dion night wasn’t as popular as we first thought, even though people love the concert there. »
A concept that can run out of breath?
According to the violinist, how long will the success in the metropolis last? “I have the impression that we could go on for a long time, but at a probably less intense pace,” he replies. Especially since we are planning to add new programs like Mozart’s Requiem and rock classics in September. »
The representative of The press attended concerts dedicated to the music of Hans Zimmer, ABBA and several successful soundtracks. After just a few minutes of this music, wrapped in the beauty of the place and the magic of the (fake) candles, he had tears in his eyes. If he noticed inconsistencies, slight hiccups, slips and rare off-notes, he still enjoyed the three evenings and benefited from the overall good performance of the quartet.