Montreal is a choir | The press

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

Posted at 7:15am

In the Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus church, André Pappathomas put a hundred choristers in front of the dress rehearsal of the concert the songs of the island which will be presented on July 2nd at the newly renovated Théâtre de Verdure in 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 brings together around the Grand Chœur du Centre-Sud, conducted by André Pappathomas, a dozen choirs from cultures across Montreal. On stage are the choirs Panday Tinig (Philippines), Singiza (Rwanda), Antioch (Syria), Abruzzese (Italy), Canticorum (Latin America), Antsa Fitoriana (Madagascar), Haïti chante et danse (Haiti), the Duo de Peking -Opera (China) and the Angham Group (Middle East), to which are added soloists and guest musicians.


André pappathomas

It’s a lot of people and all these beautiful people together have created this original concert where the musicality of languages ​​from everywhere mixes with the French language, because this show is also part of a project to frank immigrants. “What I find wonderful is the ability to use music to come together,” said Ericka Alneus, the City of Montreal’s director of culture and heritage, who oversees the project, in a phone interview.

It also means creating an identity through a French-speaking city that is now part of their lives, Montreal, and nurturing our cultural communities. As a child of immigrant parents from Haiti, this makes me proud.

Ericka Alneus, in charge of culture and heritage for the city of Montreal

To be honest, I didn’t know that there were so many different choirs in Montreal. In each of the cultural communities, they serve to maintain the connection to the people, the language and the culture of origin. There are newcomers as well as well-integrated immigrants; Many speak French very well, while others are learning it. To the The Songs of the Island, each choir sings a piece or two from their repertoire in their own language, including a refrain in French. So that we can hear Santa Lucia from the Italians, No fan bwa from Haitians, Bayan ko from Filipinos, Llama bada from the Syrians…

André Pappathomas, who is also a composer, made the connections between the songs and integrated the songs into the show. The end of the worldby Robert Charlebois, and mummymade popular by Pauline Julien, a little daring in itself.

Written like that, it sounds complicated, but you have to see and hear it to believe it. The result is fascinating, as is André Pappathomas, a passionate multidisciplinary artist, very involved in his community and always full of ideas and projects. It’s not the first time he’s tackled a project like this. In 2016 he founded breathes with 250 singers singing in a dozen languages. For this project, he scoured Montreal’s cultural centers looking for choirs, all of which were on hiatus due to the pandemic, which was “a hell of a job,” he says.

  • Part of the Rwandan choir Singiza, with Bernadette Mukandoli (centre)


    Part of the Rwandan choir Singiza, with Bernadette Mukandoli (centre)

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


    Dress rehearsal of the show The Songs of the Island

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


    Khen del Carmen from the Panday Tinig Choir of the Philippines

  • Franco Guido, leader of the Abruzzo Choir


    Franco Guido, leader of the Abruzzo Choir


Introducing them to the principles of improvisation, he created the common pieces, taking particular inspiration from Claude Gauvreau! “They think I’m Martian, but when they stop doubting, it’s beautiful and it works,” he tells me. I met 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 of course we want to get closer to the French language, that can’t stop us from singing together. »

A collective work

In any case, the participants seem to be having fun. You have to see how enthusiastic they are about the well-known piece Bella Ciao accompanied by the leader of the Abruzzo Choir, Franco Guido, with his accordion, or hear them respond to the call of André Dopitari, leader of the Singiza Choir, who breathlessly made the fire dance. It claps, it laughs, it sings and it dances in my childhood church and I have to admit it fills me with joy.

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

In addition, André Pappathomas gives the gathering more than just 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, come even if it rains. Be colorful, become beautiful and beautiful! »

Young Filipino Khen del Carmen, who came to Quebec five years ago, joining a choir has allowed him to connect with people of all generations in his community and he is impressed by the ten cultures working together. “I hope it will have a big impact on the public. »

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


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

Very friendly Franco Guido, 77, who came to Quebec from Italy when he was 16, is proud to be attending the songs of the island. “I thank the Quebec government for allowing us the freedom to preserve our cultures. We are lucky to be here. This project includes everyone. We’re building a Quebec together. »

These remarks align with those of André Pappathomas, who believes that the issue is less about “saving” Quebec culture and more about ensuring its continuity with all.

“What will be on stage on July 2nd is the Quebec of tomorrow, in this awareness of the French fact and this culture that I bring to them,” he notes. Through me, they understand Quebecers a little, even if I offer them strange things. It is working ! We’re afraid here, and that’s normal in the context that we’re a French-speaking society in North America. But I think it’s really important that we open our mentality and our visions and that we find a greater confidence in our culture that allows us to be a much more welcoming and exemplary society. »

Essentially, and best of all, this show is a reflection of Québec today: a collective work.

The Songs of the Island, July 2 at 8:30 p.m. at the Théâtre de Verdure in the Parc La Fontaine. Admission free, admission from 7:30 p.m.

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