Cultural return | The OSM exhumes its treasures

The thing is not very well known, but since the year of its creation, in 1935, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra (OSM) has assiduously accumulated thousands of objects and documents that bear witness to its rich history.




You can imagine that I happily accepted the OSM’s invitation to go and search the room where these photographs, recordings, correspondence, contracts, telegrams, programs and other artifacts are stored.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Popular concerts Desjardins

I was entitled to this privileged visit on the occasion of the launch of the celebrations surrounding the 90e season of the OSM which will officially take off next fall. To kick off these festivities, a special event will take place on January 16.

But first let’s go back, somewhere in 1934, and find ourselves at a meeting in the company of Athanase David, then a Liberal MP for Terrebonne in Quebec (he is the grandfather of Françoise, Hélène, Pierre and Charles-Philippe), his wife Antonia Nantel, the music critic Henri Letondal, as well as Ernest Tétraut, Victor Doré, Ubald Boyer and Jean Lallemand. Because it is to these influential and determined music lovers that we owe the existence of this orchestra, one of the great prides of Quebec.

Some of these founding members then gravitated around the Montreal Orchestra, a group composed largely of musicians who found themselves unemployed after the arrival of sound cinema. Judging that this orchestra was poorly serving French-speaking musicians and music lovers, the group decided to distance itself to create the Concerts symphoniques de Montréal (the name of the OSM came in 1954).

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Educational notebook for a series of school matinees dating from 1936. The schoolboy discovered his tickets for the entire season.

To launch this enterprise, the organizing committee took great measures and undertook to repatriate Wilfrid Pelletier, who had been attached to the Metropolitan Opera in New York for several years. Enthusiastic by this challenge, the chef accepts this offer and returns to live in his hometown.

The first CSM concert was offered on January 14, 1935 in the auditorium of Le Plateau school, located in La Fontaine Park. Work totaling $22,000 is being used to renovate the hall so that it can better accommodate the orchestra and its musicians. It then costs $5 to subscribe to the six concerts of the season.

This fabulous story lies dormant today in the archives and score rooms of the Maison symphonique. It takes the form of tens of thousands of documents which, when you start leafing through them, guarantee thrills. We must see the care with which programs intended for school mornings were prepared in 1935 (an idea from Wilfrid Pelletier). Concert tickets are still present in certain leaflets.

  • Program for a concert at the Montreal Music Festival, in 1939

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Program for a concert at the Montreal Music Festival, in 1939

  • Program for the concert of January 14, 1935 marking the first season of the OSM.  Rosario Bourdon was at the desk.

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Program for the concert of January 14, 1935 marking the first season of the OSM. Rosario Bourdon was at the desk.

  • First logo of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    First logo of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra

  • Letter from Claude Robillard, director of parks at the City of Montreal, who agrees that the OSM can store folding chairs for a summer concert in 1953

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Letter from Claude Robillard, director of parks at the City of Montreal, who agrees that the OSM can store folding chairs for a summer concert in 1953

  • Telegram from Maurice Duplessis, dating from 1951, in which he told Pierre Béique, administrator of the OSM, that because of an “overabundance of work”, he would not be able to attend an OSM concert

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Telegram from Maurice Duplessis, dating from 1951, in which he told Pierre Béique, administrator of the OSM, that because of an “overabundance of work”, he would not be able to attend an OSM concert

  • Exchange between Pierre Béique, administrator of the OSM, and Lucien Hétu, director of Services to the City of Montreal, with a view to two concerts planned at the Mont-Royal chalet, in 1958

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Exchange between Pierre Béique, administrator of the OSM, and Lucien Hétu, director of Services to the City of Montreal, with a view to two concerts planned at the Mont-Royal chalet, in 1958

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What emotion I had when reading a telegram from Maurice Duplessis confirming that he would not be able to honor with his presence a certain concert, in 1951. Or the correspondence between Claude Robillard, responsible for parks at the City of Montreal, and the OSM team for the organization of an open-air concert in 1953.

I admit to having been fascinated by the advertising of the Dollar Symphony Forum where, for the modest sum of one dollar, one could attend a concert at the Montreal Forum in 1962. And also that of the OSM tour in Russia the same year.

I met archivist Sophie Rodrigue, whose role is to inventory and identify these countless documents.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Sophie Rodrigue, archivist at the OSM

There are about 800 boxes here. For a long time they were stored in the garages at Place des Arts. Fortunately, nothing was damaged.

Sophie Rodrigue

In these boxes, many of which have not yet been opened, we find the programs of all the concerts presented over the past 90 years. They are very useful for knowing the works that were performed, in which program they fit and who conducted them. We discover in particular the details surrounding the passage of Leonard Bernstein, in 1944, or that of Igor Stravinsky, in 1946, who came to direct his own works, including Fire Bird.

  • Advertising for Parfums Molinard published in a program of the Montreal Symphony Concerts, in 1943

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Advertising for Parfums Molinard published in a program of the Montreal Symphony Concerts, in 1943

  • Program of a concert from the Dollar Symphony series presented on October 23, 1962 at the Montreal Forum

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Program of a concert from the Dollar Symphony series presented on October 23, 1962 at the Montreal Forum

  • Program of the Montreal Symphony Concerts, ancestors of the OSM, in 1937

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Program of the Montreal Symphony Concerts, ancestors of the OSM, in 1937

  • Poster for the tour made by the OSM in 1962 in Russia

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Poster for the tour made by the OSM in 1962 in Russia

  • Score of The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky.  The famous composer conducted The Firebird and Pulcinella in 1946.

    PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

    Partition of Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. The famous composer conducted Fire Bird And Pulcinella in 1946.

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“It’s still extraordinary, I work every day surrounded by treasures,” adds Sophie Rodrigue. These documents not only tell the history of the OSM, but also that of Quebec. For example, we see the evolution of women in advertisements. »

By the way, did you know that the famous Pop concerts began in 1969? The first were devoted to songs by Gilles Vigneault, Jean-Pierre Ferland and Robert Charlebois. The OSM archives contain symphonic arrangements of approximately 1,000 popular works.

Speaking of scores, it is impressive to see the shelves crumbling under these thousands of sheets that are indecipherable to ordinary mortals. These are archival documents, but above all reference tools. The music librarian Michel Léonard, guardian angel of these jewels, takes obvious pleasure in explaining how the bowing strokes are indicated (often by hand) and preserved for posterity.

PHOTO HUGO-SÉBASTIEN AUBERT, THE PRESS

Michel Léonard, music librarian at the OSM

Contrary to popular belief, string players do not decide individually how to apply bowing movements. These are determined in advance by the concertmaster. These shots are “pulled” or “pushed”. Once coordinated, these gestures provide effects, sounds and colors that become specific to an orchestra.

The history of the OSM is rich and prodigious. We haven’t finished telling it. Thanks to those who have protected this memory over the past nine decades, we have everything we need to do so.

Special evening

The kick-off to the celebrations surrounding the 90e OSM season will be given on January 16. For the occasion, Rafael Payare will direct the Symphony no 7 in E minor by Malher. A selection of objects from the archives will be displayed in the foyers. In addition, 90 lucky spectators will be able to discover a gift. The musical program will be resumed on January 17 and 20.

The OSM in 10 dates

  • 1934 – Creation of the Société des concerts symphoniques de Montréal
  • 1935 – Creation of Mornings for Youth
  • 1938 – Start of free concerts on the Esplanade du chalet du Mont-Royal
  • 1954 – The Montreal Symphony Concerts change their name to become the Montreal Symphony Orchestra
  • 1962 – First international tour under the baton of Zubin Mehta
  • 1980 – First OSM recording conducted by Charles Dutoit
  • 2011 – Opening of the Maison symphonique de Montréal
  • 2014 – Inauguration of the Grand Orgue Pierre-Béique, the purchase of which was made possible thanks to Mrs. Jacqueline Desmarais
  • 2016 – Creation of the Music for Children program, an initiative of Kent Nagano
  • 2021 – Rafael Payare appointed musical director


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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