What’s that you say? You don’t like classical music? It’s only for the gray-haired crowd? Elie Boissinot and Francis Choinière would like to prove you wrong. The founders and Artistic Directors of the Orchestre Philharmonique et Choeur des Mélomanes (or OPCM), Boissinot and Choinière are adamant about bringing classical music to young people, whether they be performers or audience members. Heck, they are young people: Boissinot, an award-winning cellist, is wrapping up his music studies at Marianopolis College, and Choinière, a pianist, singer, composer and conductor, has just finished his first year in composition at McGill.
Created in 2015 as a project among graduates from the arts high school FACE, the OPCM started as a choir for amateur student singers who wanted to sing for free. They didn’t want to be paid, they just didn’t want to pay a fee to join a choir. At the same time, Boissinot and Choinière were looking for an opportunity to put on a concert showcasing contemporary classical orchestral and choral music—not the kind that everyone hates, but rather more accessible neo-Romantic works by composers like Eric Whitacre, John Rutter, and Martin Palmeri. And so the OPCM was born.
“The orchestra gives young aspiring musicians a chance to work with professional soloists,” says Choinière. “Our orchestral musicians are paid for each concert, and they can add this experience to their professional portfolio.” In other words, a perfect place for music grads from two of the most prestigious classical music institutions in Montreal: The Schulich School of Music at McGill, and the Conservatoire de musique du Québec à Montréal.
Although still young, the OCPM has received recognition even beyond Canada’s borders. Next year the choir will perform with professional choirs from around the world at Carnegie Hall as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the DCINY (Distinguished Concerts International New York City). According to the DCINY press release, “Le Choeur des Mélomanes received this invitation because of the quality and high level of musicianship demonstrated by the singers.” And on March 3 of this year, they sang with a professional orchestra to a sold out Bell Centre during the Game of Thrones soundtrack tour.
For their concert this Saturday evening, the choir and orchestra together will be performing two works, one a classic crowd-pleaser, the other a relatively new work by Argentinian composer Martin Palmeri, both centred on the theme of dance: Brahms’s Liebeslieder, 18 short waltzy songs about love, featuring the renowned soprano Anja Strauss as soloist, and Palmeri’s Misa Tango, a mass featuring solo bandoneon (played by Jonathan Goldman) and Argentinian tango rhythms.
And if that isn’t enough to get you out of your comfort zone, consider this: free wine is included in the price of the ticket. What more could you ask for?
The Orchestre Philharmonique et Choeur des Mélomanes performs Saturday April 29 at 7pm at FACE High School, 3449 University. Tickets are available online or at the door. Adults 20$, students 15$, under 10 years old free, 22$ at the door.