070693 Montreal Symphony Orchestra plays Tchaikovsky, Ravel, Montreal, QC

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On July 6th, 1993 I was cooling my heels in Montreal with my good friend Jojo.  We were in town for several days soaking up as much free music as we could at the Montreal Jazz Festival and staying on the cheap at his brother’s apartment.

I’m not sure how we caught wind of it, but we heard of a free outdoor concert featuring the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.  It wasn’t part of the jazz festival (at least I don’t think it was) and it was somewhere kind of far away…maybe it was on an island or something?  It was certainly in a large, featureless park.  Anyway, the main point was they were going to play Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which was at the time my favourite “classical” piece from my favourite “classical” composer* (Tchaikovsky was actually from the Romantic period).  This was long before I started working with the National Arts Centre Orchestra…heck, this was only the second time I saw a professional orchestra.  Anyway, I was pretty excited.

I suspect we walked to the concert; Jojo and I were both of the mind that saving $2 on bus fare was easily worth a two-hour long walk.  I don’t recall if they started with another piece, but man, did I cling to every note for the Overture.  Now, if you’re at all familiar with the piece you’ll remember that near the end there are cannons – cannon shots are actually written into the score.  And yes, this concert had real cannons!  Not only that, there were actually soldiers dressed in old military costumes marching around representing the French and Russian armies.  Crazy!!!  Take that, AC/DC**.

It was all so great, and when Jojo and I started trudging back towards downtown after the show it got even better, for as we started on our journey the orchestra decided to come back on and play an encore.  And whattya know, even for a relative newcomer to “serious” music it was another classic(al) piece that I recognized (okay, it’s Impressionism, but whatever), Bolero.  I was swooning as we strolled along to the Doppling strains of Ravel’s wonderful melody as it got tossed around the orchestra, and when our walking route brought us past Montreal’s awesome Olympic Village I swooned again at the random pile of residences that collectively create my favourite architectural wonder in the city.  

I believe that I’ve mentioned elsewhere in these stories the wonders of Jojo’s brother’s chocolate cake.  This may have been the night that I first tried it, and after a long, arduous walk I bet it was that much sweeter.

*My favourite “classical” composer nowadays is Bach, who also wasn’t from the Classical period.  He was Baroque (and I don’t merely mean he was from the Baroque era…the dude was Baroque music).

**It’s a curious coincidence that I saw AC/DC setting off cannons during For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) exactly two years to-the-day before this show.  That concert had been in Montreal as well, just up the road at the Forum.  Both were effective, fist-pumping uses of weapons-as-instruments, but I gotta hand the overall win to AC/DC.

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