Art and music intertwine at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, host to almost 100 concerts every year at one-of-a-kind concert venue Bourgie Hall, where music lovers mingle with art connoisseurs to hear classical and contemporary chamber music that traverses the centuries and the globe…
Three years ago, the museum transformed the Erskine and American heritage church, built in 1894, into the acoustically impressive, aesthetically pleasing, state-of-the-art Bourgie Hall, complete with original stained-glass windows and natural light. Bourgie Hall’s music performances and related activities reflect not only the museum’s exhibitions, from archaeology to contemporary art, but the unique makeup of Montreal’s music, art and cultures scenes.
As General and Artistic Director of Arte Musica Foundation, in residence at the museum, Isolde Lagacé works closely with curators and administrators in programming Bourgie Hall’s annual music series. “Music and visual arts are two art forms that mix well even though our experiences of them are different, from standing in front of a painting to watching a performance,” she explains. “Over the years, I’ve seen that people who love visual arts are also touched by music. It’s clear that these art forms go together; we can’t put them into boxes.”
Bourgie Hall’s music series acts in tandem with the museum’s many permanent and temporary exhibitions, enhancing each other in artistic and educational ways. The current Splendore a Venezia exhibition stands out as a perfect example of music’s integration with art, and was intentionally conceived as such to provide a bigger picture of Venice society and culture from the Renaissance to Baroque periods.
Along with concerts by international and local luminaries, including members of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Violins du Roy and the Orchestre Métropolitan, the hall’s 5-à-7 early-evening series and Youth and Pro Series provide chances to discover new Quebecois talents in chamber music, jazz and world music (Montreal alone is home to four music conservatories).
“It’s unbelievable how many musicians, many of whom work on an international scale, live in Montreal,” says Lagacé. Quebec’s relationship with winter also gets the musical treatment this season as Schubert’s Winter Journey is explored in a film on baritone Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau and a lecture by art historian Georges Leroux, and Nouvel Ensemble Moderne performs Winterreise on March 2, all part of Montréal en Lumiere. And on Sunday afternoons, concerts specifically tailored to kids keep burgeoning musical minds active – this winter, hear stories of Venice, dance along to Dixieland, and stomp to the rhythm of traditional percussive instruments.
In addition to her careful programming and knowledge of music and Montreal, Lagace says that what makes each concert special is an intangible quality: “It’s what happens the night of the concert, everything coming together, the musicians on stage, the audience’s enthusiastic response. This hall seems to have a level of magic that I don’t see very often at other halls and people simply seem to listen more closely here.”
Lagacé says that she’s pleasantly surprised at the enthusiasm people have shown for Bourgie Hall’s concerts – even though the intimate space only has a capacity of under 500 people, it saw over 45,000 attendees in its first year alone. “But I don’t program for ticket sales,” Lagacé stresses. “I program for quality. Thankfully, there’s a lot of freedom to explore a wide range of music that matches the high standards of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – it has to be good!”
Bourgie Hall, 1380 Sherbrooke East, (514) 285-2000
Photo credit: Etienne Gautier (last photo)
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