Montreal is a choir | The print


“Philippines, settle down here. Italy, go this way, and Syria, get closer to the great choir … ”

Posted at 7:15 am

In the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, André Pappathomas places a hundred choristers before the general rehearsals of the concert The songs of the island, which will be presented on 2 July at the recently renovated Théâtre de Verdure in the Parc La Fontaine. I attended two rehearsals of this concert, which turned out to be a particularly moving artistic and civic project.

The songs of the island gather around the Grand Chœur du Center-Sud directed by André Pappathomas a dozen choirs from cultural communities from all over Montreal. On stage the choirs Panday Tinig (Philippines), Singiza (Rwanda), Antioch (Syria), Abruzzese (Italy), Canticorum (Latin America), Antsa Fitoriana (Madagascar), Haiti chante et danse (Haiti), the Duo de Opera of Beijing (China) and the Angham group (Middle East), as well as guest soloists and musicians.


André Pappatomi

There is a lot of people, and all these beautiful people together have created this original concert where the musicality of languages ​​from all over mixes with the French language, because this show is also part of a project for the immigrant franchise. “What I find wonderful is being able to use music to be together,” said Ericka Alneus, Montreal’s head of culture and heritage who oversees the project, in a telephone interview.

It also means creating an identity through a French-speaking city that is now part of their life, Montreal, and promoting our cultural communities. It’s the kind of thing, as the child of Haitian immigrant parents, that makes me proud.

Ericka Alneus, head of culture and heritage at the city of Montreal

Honestly, I didn’t know there were so many different choirs in Montreal. In each of the cultural communities they serve to maintain the link with the people, language and culture of origin. There are new arrivals as well as well integrated immigrants; many speak French very well while others are learning it. For The songs of the island, each of the choirs will sing one or two pieces from their repertoire in their own language, including a refrain in French. So we can hear Saint Lucia by the Italians, No fans bwa by Haitians, Bayanko from the Filipinos, lamma mind from the Syrians …

André Pappathomas, who is also a composer, created the connections between the songs and integrated the songs into the show. The end of the worldby Robert Charlebois, e mommypopularized by Pauline Julien, a little audacity of hers.

It sounds complicated written like this, but you have to see and hear it to believe it. The result is fascinating, as is André Pappathomas, a passionate multidisciplinary artist who is very involved in his community, always full of ideas and projects. It is not the first time that he has embarked on such a project. In 2016 he created you breathe with 250 singers, who had sung in a dozen languages. For this project, she wandered through Montreal’s cultural centers looking for choirs that were all on hiatus due to the pandemic, which was “hellish work,” she says.

  • Part of the Rwandan Singiza Choir, with Bernadette Mukandoli (center)


    Part of the Rwandan Singiza Choir, with Bernadette Mukandoli (center)

  • General rehearsal of the show Les chants de l'île


    General rehearsal of the show The songs of the island

  • Khen del Carmen, of the Panday Tinig Choir of the Philippines


    Khen del Carmen, of the Panday Tinig Choir of the Philippines

  • Franco Guido, director of the Abruzzese Choir


    Franco Guido, director of the Abruzzese Choir

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Introducing them to the principles of improvisation, he created the common pieces, drawing inspiration in particular from Claude Gauvreau! “They take me for a Martian, but when they stop doubting, it’s beautiful and it works,” he explains. I met with each of the choirs to work on creating a new object. And all this forms a small humanity. All languages ​​come together to create a common work. Even if we have different languages, and obviously we want to converge on the French language, this is not what can stop us from singing together. ”

A collective work

In any case, the participants seem to be enjoying themselves. You have to see them get excited about the famous piece Hello beautiful that the director of the Abruzzo choir, Franco Guido, accompany them on his accordion, or hear them respond to the call of André Dopitari, director of the Singiza choir, who set the fire on fire dancing out of breath. He claps his hands, laughs, sings and dances in my childhood church, and I have to admit that he fills me with joy.

“You can’t say no to André”, said Bernadette Mukandoli, of the Singiza choir, who has known the artist for some years. “His projects are artistic and humanistic at the same time. André is the company that hosts us. This project with different countries is great, because we don’t feel alone. We listen to others. ”

In addition, André Pappathomas provides the assembly with something more than musical instructions. “Keeping in touch with the cultures around you is a great inspiration for us. Your presence is a wealth. And on July 2nd you come even if it rains. Be colorful, become beautiful and beautiful! ”

For young Filipino Khen del Carmen, who arrived in Quebec five years ago, joining a choir allowed him to connect with people from all generations of his community and was impressed by the ten cultures working together. “I hope it will have a big impact on the audience. “

“I love it,” says Marie-Claire Antoine Léveillée, director of Haiti chante et danse, which she founded. She came to Quebec in the 1990s to be a retired teacher. “It’s a unifying project and it’s beautiful in the end. I can’t wait to hear other languages, because André allows us to sing in our language. ”


Marie-Claire Antoine Léveillée, director of Haiti dances and sings

The very kind Franco Guido, 77, who arrived in Quebec from Italy at the age of 16, is proud to participate in the island songs. “I say thank you to the Quebec government for letting us free to maintain our cultures. We are lucky to be here. This project includes everyone. We are building a Quebec together. ”

These observations join those of André Pappathomas, who believes that it is not so much necessary to “save” the culture of Quebec, as to ensure its continuity with everyone.

“What will be staged on July 2nd is the Quebec of tomorrow, in this awareness of the French fact and of this culture that I bring to them, he observes. They understand Quebeckers a little through me, even if I offer them weird things. That works ! We are scared here, and it is normal in the context where we are a French-speaking company in North America. But I think it is really important to open up our mindset and our visions, and that we find in ourselves a greater confidence in our culture, which will allow us to be a much larger, more welcoming and exemplary society. ”

After all, and this is the most beautiful thing, this exhibition is a reflection of today’s Quebec: a collective work.

The songs of the island, 2 July at 8:30 pm at the Théâtre de Verdure in the Parc La Fontaine. Free admission, doors open at 7.30pm


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