Bernard Labadie: memories of the “Messiah”

Bernard Labadie: souvenirs du «Messie»

Bernard Labadie will attack this year at the 15th production of the “Messiah” of Handel’s offered by les Violons du Roy and la Chapelle de Québec.

December 7, 2019-4: 00 am


Bernard Labadie: memories of the “Messiah”

Bernard Labadie: souvenirs du «Messie»

Josianne Desloges

The Sun


On the occasion of the 15th production of the “Messiah” of Handel by les Violons du Roy and la Chapelle de Québec Bernard Labadie has agreed to go back in time : the first time where it is rubbed, at 24 years of age, at the concert he will lead this week in Quebec city, Montreal and Ottawa.

In 1987, for their third Christmas, les Violons du Roy and the ensemble vocal Bernard Labadie, crowding in the cramped space of the Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur to present their first production of the Messiah. The little church is still there, at the side of the édifice Marie-Guyart (more often called Complex (G), but was abandoned since 2007. “When I pass by, I have a little tightness in the heart, because it is a place of extraordinary beauty,” emphasises Bernard Labadie.

He was never immersed in the colossal partition of 2 hours and 40 minutes of Handel before you decide to direct it. “I would say that the first time, we fared well, thanks to the unconsciousness of youth!” He went twice a year to Paris to study gregorian chant. “I remember to have spent my days learning the Messiah of Handel in a small room right at the top of a cheap hotel in a five-minute walk of the church where the baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier had been the organist for part of his life.” The maestro was precisely attacked at the midnight Mass for Christmas of that composer in the previous year. Let’s say that from the foundation of the Violins, the menus music were already hefty.

“I remember business crazy, concentration problems. There is an air in which all the sentences are the same length and instrumentalists in two different sections jumped the same line at the same time. This put us in a perilous situation, but which one is out.”

The chapel, which contains not more than 400 seats, hosted three performances of the Messiah. The enthusiasm of the public of Quebec for this piece of the repertoire of force to squeeze the people on the second floor of the sacristy. “There was an appetite for that in the directory of the Eighteenth century — Bach, Handel, Mozart — to be ridden more regularly and in-depth, remembers Bernard Labadie. Immediately, it has caused a problem of room, because it could have been done five times, but as can be produced at a loss, we would be in debt a little more each time.”

Two years later, a few weeks after the election of Jean-Paul L’allier mayor of Quebec, Mr. Labadie was a plaid shirt, a hairy, bearded and with glasses bottom bottle (the description is of him) to consultation sessions on the future of the old Palais Montcalm, that we wanted to then transform into a Home theatre. “Despite its flaws and outdated, it still remained the best room we had in Quebec city for classical music. The mayor had told me that we would talk about it again.”

Thirty years later, the Violins are housed in the new Palais Montcalm became House Music, which will be returned to the Messiah in a few days. Meanwhile, there have been productions of the oratorio at the church of Saint-Dominique, in the former Palais Montcalm, Salle Albert-Rousseau and the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré. “A very bad idea of our administrator of the time, says Mr. Labadie. It is really huge. And with a little luck, you should hear the end of the concert so there is echo.”

New York, New York

In 2009, the Violins and the Chapel are the Messiah and theChristmas Oratorio from Bach to Quebec, to Montreal, then to New York. “It was the result of a dual invitation of Carnegie Hall, which was a first for us and a form of consecration. This is the kind of treatment they reserve to the great choirs of europe”, underlines Bernard Labadie, who had then dedicated the concert to her mother, who came to blow out 90 candles. This year, the new centennial intends to attend again to the work she loves, but will avoid the long evening by attending the general. Without that the Messiah is associated with a particular tradition in the Labadie, the great choral works, especially if there are trumpets, raise the enthusiasm.

Three of the four soloists who will sing this week had never worked with The Chapel before. Marie-Sophie Pollak (soprano), Tim Mead (counter-tenor) and Aaron Sheehan (tenor) join Matthew Brook (bass-baritone), who has performed the Messiah with The Chapel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2016. It will be necessary to pay attention to the before-last air, If God Be For Us, usually sung by the soprano, which will be interpreted for the first time in his version of the alto, by Tim Mead.

“The advantage of directing a work that the choir and orchestra are already aware of and have a lot done together is that we can do nuances, small differences of tempo, articulations a little different, emphasizes Bernard Labadie. There are not many places where I can do this. When you have four rehearsals and that all the world has the head in the score, you don’t start to play tricks.” The maestro is a point of honour to repeat each time as if it were the first.

The Messiah will be presented December 11 and 12, at 20h at the Palais Montcalm, December 13, at the Maison symphonique in Montreal and the 18 and 19 December at the national arts Centre in Ottawa.

Bernard Labadie: souvenirs du «Messie»

The Path of Christmas, at the Palais Montcalm, in 2017




For a fourth year, The Chapel of Quebec city, and Bernard Labadie are the Way to Christmas, a time of meditation, musical and poetic evening of 23 December. The narration will be this time provided by the actress Hélène Florent, while the money raised will be donated to the Foundation Gilles Kègle.

The following tables in the Way of Christmas mary, the sacred and the profane, the old and the new. Bernard Labadie has inspired A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, a ceremony that attracts thousands of spectators from around the world in the chapel of King’s College Cambridge every year since 1918.

Each year, it renews most of the music, but preserves the texts, which are almost “immutable”, in the tradition of Cambridge. The table of the Mystery of the night, for example, will still be illuminated by the poetry of Baudelaire, but will be followed by Quiet nights of Camille Saint-Saëns. The evening is built in the shape of an arch. It ends as it began, with the singers wandering lantern in hand, to the sound of the music from the organ, the bells and the harp.

Bernard Labadie was happy to entrust the readings to Hélène Florent. “I’ve worked once with her when she was a graduate at the conservatory of dramatic art. It has been extra in The magic flute at the Opéra de Québec. Michel Nadeau was the staging. She was 20 years old and it already burned the boards. It was obvious that she was going to have a huge career.”

The path of Christmas will take place at Palais Montcalm on December 23, 18h. Tickets will be distributed on Saturday, December 14. Doors open at 8am.

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