Donner la note (Setting the Tone): Savoir Média and the OSM Unlock the Secrets of Orchestral Music

by Benjamin Goron

Where does one find the soul of a symphony orchestra? Savoir Média in collaboration with the OSM explores this question in a series of video clips entitled Donner la note. The series features OSM musicians who hail from various professional backgrounds, like different parts of a musical score, but they take on another dimension from the moment their shared passion brings them together. Throughout these symphonic portraits, these artists speak open-heartedly, their words resonating with the soul of the symphony orchestra.

Ariane Lajoie grew up in Lanaudière to the sounds of Quebec folklore; Brandyn Lewis was raised around gospel music; unlike André Moisan, Pierre Beaudry was not born into a family of musicians. While these artists’ relationships to music may have been highly disparate beginning in their early youth, what they profoundly share is unconditional love for their art. All have embarked on a long journey strewn with doubts and challenges to finally reach the summit and fulfil their dream of playing with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.

Austin Howle, tuba solo

“When I was told I had won the audition, I as truly surprised. It was a moment I will never forget.” Tubist and Mississippi native Austin Howle began with few prospects for being part of a major North American symphony orchestra: there is only a single tuba in a symphony orchestra, and rarely do principal seats open up for new players. Austin was fortunate to land his position shortly after his studies, but it was different for Ariane Lajoie, who entered at the age of 38, and for horn player Nadia Côté, who joined the ranks of the Orchestra at 42, after a diverse career that took her from the Canadian Army to the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra.

Each musician has a special story, an individual palette of colours that enriches the group, but all share a common objective: to be part of something larger than themselves while transmitting their passion to younger generations. “In an orchestra, one has to reconcile one’s personal insights, the purported intentions of composers, the views of one’s colleagues and what the conductor is asking.” According to bassoonist Stéphane Lévesque, orchestral music is about teamwork, listening and sharing. Whether it is the pleasure of bringing beauty and harmony to one’s surroundings, of being part of a whole that surpasses its individual parts, of feeling an invisible guiding force, or of perceiving beyond time and space, each musician’s experience is different. Emerging out of the opening hushed silence of the concert hall, only one thing matters, however: setting the tone.

Stéphane Lévesque, basson solo