Fred Pellerin is back at the Maison symphonique in December for another one of his fabulous tales. At Les jours de la semelle, under the direction of Kent Nagano, magic awaits! In four questions, the OSM’s favourite storyteller paints a picture of years of collaboration with the OSM.
This is your fourth Christmas concert with Kent Nagano. What has been most remarkable about your collaboration with him?
What we found at the beginning of the project, and what is still the case, is Maestro Nagano’s desire to render the symphonic appealing. If the conventions, the scale, and the etiquette can sometimes lead one to think that this music is reserved for an elite type of person, this great conductor’s many projects have given this prodigious music back to the general public. Our symphonies are, I believe, among the good initiatives that have allowed audiences to get to know the orchestra without getting overwhelmed by the details.
You’re flexible within the universe of storytelling, an oral tradition, while classical music has more formal conventions – two very different worlds. What have you taken from this experience?
At the first encounter between my stories and the symphony, I did wonder whether two things with such different shapes could truly fit together. We had our work cut out for us, but it turned out that Maestro Nagano’s instincts were right. Stories could not only give newcomers a good reason to cross the threshold of the Maison symphonique, but also, the ability to marry musical pieces to the elements of a story would allow us to make more daring choices, choosing works that are more rarely found in typical concerts. It’s a fruitful artistic collaboration: my modest little tales find themselves ennobled by orchestral trappings. And on a human scale? The teamwork, the knowledge sharing, and the camaraderie of these passionate people makes me grow a few inches every time.
Among all of these OSM concerts, do you have an unforgettable memory?
The happy memory that immediately comes to mind is the time when I conducted the orchestra. With the goal of integrating the story and the music as much as possible, we strived from the outset to create interactions between Maestro Nagano, the orchestra, and me. During the writing of Le divin enfin, René Richard Cyr suggested the idea of a moment in the show when the conductor can’t get the music started properly. Taking advantage of the moment, I would offer to help by assuming the role of conductor myself, and under my guidance, the piece would open as it was supposed to. Thoroughly openminded, Maestro Nagano agreed to hand me the musical reins for a moment. It was absolutely crazy!
What was your inspiration for this new tale, Les jours de la semelle?
When I propose a story to work on with the folks from the orchestra, I draw on the tales that I already have in my repertoire. I choose a story that we’ll carefully embellish and unfold, but each time, I take care to offer a solid, tried and tested framework, a tale that I already know. This year, I went and rummaged through my boxes. At first, I stumbled upon a tale that featured the blacksmith and his Lurette. It could have been a good story, but I was afraid that it would be a little too close to the characters that we’d already met in La tuque en mousse de nombril. So I went over our other stories to take stock of our previous stars: we’d had Babine in Le bossu symphonique, Ésimésac in Le divin enfin … whose turn was it? Toussaint Brodeur deserved to take his place in the world!
Les jours de la semelle: December 12, 13, and 14 at 8pm and December 15 at 2:30 and 8pm at the Maison symphonique.