The excess of Riopelle in music


I admit I was privileged. In the comfort of the Piccolo studio, I discovered earlier this week the musical work that has been created in recent months as a tribute to Jean Paul Riopelle.

Posted at 7:15 am

The day before this audition, which brought together the main designers and collaborators of this titanic project, producer Nicolas Lemieux multiplied the superlatives on the phone. I’m starting to get to know the boy: when he gets involved in a project, he believes in it with all his heart and uses superhuman strength to convince others to believe it too.

I’ll wait to hear the result, I thought to myself.

I arrived in the studio with serious concern. And if ever this creation, which will be unveiled to the public on 1uh next November on various media (digital version, vinyl record, luxury box set, etc.) and staged in February 2023 as part of Montréal en lumière, was it missing? What if he is marshmallow or falsely playing “symphonic”?

What would I have said to the creators present? What words should I use? What was I getting into, I told myself, as I sat in a large armchair in front of a pair of ultra-sophisticated speakers.

The work, signed by Serge Fiori and Blair Thomson, is made up of five movements. After the first one, I was overwhelmed by so much beauty, creativity and depth. After the third, my eyes were watery. And when the last breath was heard, I was literally on my ass.

Mission accomplished for designers!

The starting point for this creation is based on seven pieces by Serge Fiori, a great admirer of the painter and sculptor, which are not part of Harmonium’s repertoire. Blair Thomson enjoyed “deconstructing” Fiori’s songs (you’ll find some themes here and there) to create a work of its own.

Because we are not faced with a stupid montage, a patchwork easy. Fiori and Thomson sign a real musical work where the references to Riopelle’s journey are guided by a careful and intelligent understanding of man and his work.

Each movement illustrates a crucial moment in Riopelle’s life. We can hear his passion, his exile, his rise, his love for nature, his travels, his return to the land of hospitality, his descent towards death. Nicolas Lemieux reminds us that the image of the wild goose, very present in the painter’s work, is the main symbol of this musical creation. “Riopelle becomes a wild goose and the wild goose is in a sense this artist. We have combined the movements of this animal with those of its course. ”

Blair Thomson (lucky the director who gets his hands on this composer to ask him about film music) has done an amazing job. You should have heard him explain to us how he used a thousand subtleties to approach the painter.


Jean Paul Riopelle, photographed in 1985

So when Riopelle discovers sculpture, we use more brass and metal sounds (an anvil is also heard). Or, to illustrate the painter’s travels to the far north, he asked the percussionist to strike several stones.

Particularly successful are the pieces of the mantras that Serge Fiori composed in the 90s. “I told Blair that he had to outdo himself,” said Nicolas Lemieux. This is what he did. He transformed and let his creative genius express itself. I still can’t believe the result. ”

This introspection into the life of Riopelle, Nicolas Lemieux and the two composers were able to do it thanks to an important research work supported by Yseult Riopelle, daughter of the artist, as well as by Manon Gauthier, general director of the Fondation Jean Paul Riopelle. , and John Porter, former director of Quebec’s National Museum of Fine Arts and art historian, who signs the lyrics that will accompany the record.

The recording sessions of the opera, with the musicians of the symphonic orchestra, took place at the Maison symphonique. Les Petits Chanteurs de Laval’s 100-voice choir was then recorded in the studio, combined with another choir specially formed for the work.

The world premiere of the theatrical event Riopelle symphonic experience will take place on 16, 17 and 18 February at Place des Arts with the Orchester symphonique de Montréal under the direction of Adam Johnson. This project will then be presented elsewhere in the country and around the world. This is at least the desire of its manufacturer.

Gabriel Poirier-Galarneau was entrusted with the task of designing the staging, the scenography and the video projections.

After hearing the work, I couldn’t help but tell this designer that he had a huge responsibility in his hands. I think in the last few months he has seen a lot of Riopelle paintings in his dreams of him.


Leave a Comment