Let the festivals and their related free events begin! Not that they ever stopped – not even winter can halt the arts in Montreal. But now that it’s March and the days seem to suddenly be brighter and longer (and slightly warmer), our enthusiasm for socializing also sees a considerable jump. We’re on our way to spring, and what better way to celebrate that fact, even if it does snow again, which it will, than by showing our smiling faces in public spaces…
Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, held on Sunday, March 20, is always a rollicking good time, leaving a trail of green hats, green confetti and green-painted revelers in its wake, all the way down Ste. Catherine Street from Fort Street to Phillips Square, starting at noon. Even though the Montreal parade has run consecutively since 1824 and our Irish population is a force to be reckoned with, St. Patrick’s Day still hasn’t been declared an official holiday – but the Monday following it might as well be. Get your free green on with the best of ‘em.
Wild and weird in a different way, the Festival Voix d’Amériques, March 11–18, showcases some of our best performance art and spoken word performers – and invited guests from New York and further afield – blending theatre, poetry, music and more. While former Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur’s show isn’t free, plenty of others are: every night of the festival from 5 to 7 pm, bands and poets take the stage at Divan Orange– see Samian & Anodajay, Keith Kouna, Lake of Stew and more. Then at 10 p.m. each night at Casa del Popolo, the FVA collaborates with the Under the Snow Festival on late-night performances, music and an open-mic – be a star, bring your guitar.
Or go the art-making route at the International Festival of Films on Art, March 17–27, as popular Montreal artist Zilon sets up a public workspace in the grand foyer of Places des Arts – contribute your own creations and watch Zilon’s live painting every Sunday of the month from 2 to 5 p.m. While FIFA’s film screenings do have a ticket price, it’s well worth it for documentary films on art, architecture, fashion and music masters that you probably won’t have a chance to see anywhere else.
In other cinema matters, Montreal’s own independent alternative cinema space, Blue Sunshine, opens a new exhibition on March 4th, 5 p.m., featuring portraits by David Biddle (pictured above), Bilyana Ilievska and David Shaw, Montreal-based painters who take inspiration from eerie cult film imagery. Come for the art, stay for the out-of-this-world films: check out the schedule.
With so many great independent art galleries in Montreal, it would be a shame not to visit at least a few of them – especially when that visit costs not a cent. Art Matters, a March-long festival of art organized by Fine Arts students at Concordia University, is sort of like a cheat sheet on some of the newest and brightest artists in town. Visit established galleries such as Gallery Push, Les Territoires, Galerie Lilian Rodriguez and others for inspiration and insight on life, the city and why art definitely still matters, no matter what your age.
If boats, trains and other inanimate objects of port-city industry could make music, what would it sound like? Pointe-à-Callière’s Port Symphonies answers that not-so age-old question in an outdoor concert that mixes classical music, sound art and a little ‘70s prog for good measure, lead by pianist and composer Anthony Rozankovic – near the Pointe-à-Callière museum in the Old Port, March 6 at 1:30 p.m.
When spring break starts to seem like just too much fun and not enough education, mix the two at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where until March 6, kids 12 and under can visit the new Warrior Emperor and China’s Terracotta Army exhibition for free – plus take part in activities like the In the Emperor’s Footsteps game and Chinese painting and calligraphy. And on March 6, at 1.30 p.m., see a free screeing of From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China and Mr Mergler’s Gift, at the museum’s Maxwell-Cummings Auditorium.
And get down and dirty with high culture in a free lecture from the Opéra de Montréal: musicologist Pierre Vachon talks about Richard Strauss’ hard-hitting German opera Salomé, a tale of morbid passion, desire, lust and, well, religion – sounds like opera to me! Discussion on March 15 at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, at 7:30 pm (reserve at 514.739.7944). See Salomé itself (not free, however), featuring soprano Nicola Beller Carbone, from March 19–31.
Photo Credit: St. Patrick’s Parade- © United Irish Societies of Montreal