Société de musique contemporaine du Québec

Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ). Founded in Montreal in 1966 through the efforts of Wilfrid Pelletier (then director of the music section of the MACQ), by Jean Papineau-Couture, Maryvonne Kendergi, Serge Garant, and Hugh Davidson.

Société de musique contemporaine du Québec

Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ). Founded in Montreal in 1966 through the efforts of Wilfrid Pelletier (then director of the music section of the MACQ), by Jean Papineau-Couture, Maryvonne Kendergi, Serge Garant, and Hugh Davidson. Jean Vallerand and Pierre Mercure also were associated with the initiation of the project. The first president of the SMCQ was Jean Papineau-Couture 1966-72. As defined in its statutes, the objective of the SMCQ is to 'disseminate and promote contemporary music, both international and Canadian.' The first concert, 15 Dec 1966 at the Salle Claude-Champagne, Montreal, included works by Boulez, Schafer, Mather, and Garant. At first exclusively subsidized by the MACQ, the society later received support from the Canada Council and the Greater Montreal Council of Arts. Established in 1968, the SMCQ Ensemble (named Groupe instrumental de Montreal until 1971) is conducted by the artistic director of the society; this post has been held by Serge Garant 1966-86 and Gilles Tremblay 1986-88, followed by Walter Boudreau in 1988. The ensemble varies in size depending on the requirements of the program, and on occasion has numbered as many as 45 musicians. It was named ensemble of the year by the Canadian Music Council in 1982. In 1990 two offshoots of the ensemble were formed, the Midi-Ensemble (eight instrumentalists) and the SMCQ Trio (flute, piano, and cello).

Each season the society has organized a series of concerts given by the SMCQ Ensemble or by guest groups and soloists. These were held 1975-87 at McGill University's Pollack Hall and starting in 1987 have been presented at various sites in Montreal. Among the numerous soloists and Canadian groups who participated in SMCQ concerts have been Louise Bessette, Lise Daoust, the Esprit Orchestra, John Hawkins, Bruno Laplante, Phyllis Mailing, Gilles Manny, Bruce Mather and Pierrette LePage, the Morency Quartet, Mary Morrison, Marie-Danielle Parent, Louis-Philippe Pelletier, Christina Petrowska, Gary Relyea, Patricia Rideout, the Tudor Singers, the Alcan String Quartet, the Molinari Quartet, Lorraine and Pauline Vaillancourt, and the York Winds. The SMCQ's guests also have included several prominent composers and their best-known interpreters, notably Luciano Berio and the soprano Cathy Berberian in 1968, Olivier Messiaen and the pianist Yvonne Loriod in 1970 and 1978, Karlheinz Stockhausen and his group in 1971, Mauricio Kagel and the Kölner Ensemble für neues Musiktheater in 1974, Earle Brown in 1976, Steve Reich and Musicians in 1983, and Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble InterContemporain in 1991. Among other noted visiting performers have been the pianists Alfons and Aloys Kontarsky in 1972 and 1979 and Claude Helffer in 1983; the Percussions de Strasbourg in 1973; the organists Xavier Darasse in 1975, Werner Jacob in 1977, and Jean-Pierre Leguay in 1981; the Groupe Instrumental de Bourges in 1979; the Kreuzberg String Quartet in 1980; the Lontano Ensemble of London in 1985; the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in 1988, the Ensemble de musique nouvelles de Vilnius conducted by Sarunas Nakas in 1991, the Groupe Vocal de France in 1993, the Cuarteto Latinoamericano in 1994, the Ensemble GRAME in 1996, the Ensemble Musica Nova in 1999, and the Hilliard Ensemble in 2003.

The SMCQ Ensemble has appeared in Canadian cities, including Toronto and Vancouver, and at the 9th International Festival of Contemporary Art at Royan in 1972, the 5th biennial festival 'Reconnaissance des musiques modernes' in Brussels in 1973, the US bicentennial festival in Washington in 1975, and the ISCM World Music Days in Boston in 1976, the last-named followed by a Canadian tour in collaboration with NMC. The ensemble gave concerts in England, France, Germany, and Belgium in the autumn of 1977 as part of the Musicanada and CAPAC-sponsored Rendezvous with Canada series. In 1983 it made its first Quebec tour, visiting Rimouski, Chicoutimi, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, and Joliette. In 1987 when it participated at the New Music America Festival in Philadelphia, the critic Andrew Stiller wrote that 'for the big performance at the Port of History Museum, the chief attraction was the Contemporary Music Society of Quebec, a veritable chamber orchestra of great accomplishment. It alone among the ensembles I have heard so far in this festival can match the sheer technical pizazz of Philadelphia's mainstream classical organizations' (Philadelphia Inquirer, 7 Oct 1987). In 1988 it toured five Canadian cities with the Esprit Orchestra, followed by a European tour in France, Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands.

In 1995 the Ensemble SMCQ performed at Toronto's Music Gallery and Vancouver's East Cultural Centre, and in 1999, it participated as guest of honour in two prestigious French new music festivals: Présences (Radio-France) and Agora (IRCAM). The SMCQ has collaborated with several arts organizations in the fields of dance (working with O Vertigo to mount Steve Reich's Drumming) and opera (working with Chants Libres to produce José Evangelista's Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse and with l'Opéra de Montréal to mount Britten's The Rape of Lucretia). It has also worked with traditional concert ensembles such as the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Theatre la Chapelle, the Molinari Quartet, and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec.

The SMCQ has premiered, presented, or repeated, since its inception, more than 900 works of 20th-century composers, including such classics of the era as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire in 1968 and complete works for piano in 1976, Varèse' Déserts, Intégrales, Ecuatorial, Ionisation, and Octandre at a concert in 1975 marking the 10th anniversary of the composer's death, and Boulez' Le Marteau sans maître in 1985. In 1991, the SMCQ won the Grand Prix du Conseil des arts de la communauté urbaine de Montréal (CACUM) for its 25th-anniversary celebration program

By 2004, the SMCQ Ensemble had premiered more than 100 commissioned works, most of which were by Canadian composers. They include: Tremblay's Souffles (Champs II) (1968), Beecroft'sRasas I (1969), Jacques Hétu'sCycle, Opus 16 (1970), Schafer's Music for the Morning of the World (1971), Hawkins' Waves (1971), Garant's Circuits II (1972), Morel's IIKKII (Froidure) (1972), Papineau-Couture's Obsession (1973), Coulombe Saint-Marcoux's Ishuma (1973), Mather's Madrigal V (1973), Cherney's Concerto de chambre (1972), Amy's Sonata pian'e forte (1974), Lanza'sPlectros IV (1975), Vivier's Liebesgedichte (1975), Deschênes' Moll, opéra-lilliput pour six roches molles (1976), Iannis Xénakis' Épéï (puisque, depuis, since) (1976), Steven's Images (Refractions of Time and Space) (1977), Otto Joachim's Uraufführung (1977), Pépin'sInteractions (1977), Gonneville's Variations "Auras" (1978), Loraine's Di mi se mai . . . (1979), Hambreus' Relief-haut et bas (1980), Xavier Darasse's Per Sonate (1980), Yves Daoust's Valse (1981), Burke's À la source d'Hyprocrène (1981), Brégent's Dilmun-Eden: quatre règnes dans l'évolution terrestre (1981-1986), Lalonde's Espace (1981), Provost's Anagramme (1981), Rea's Treppenmusik (1982), Constant's Précis de décomposition (1982), Longtin's Kata: San Shi Ryu (1982), Prévost's Mutations (1982),Louie'sMusic for a Thousand Autumns (1983), Evangelista's Clos de Vie (1983), Trochu's Tangente (1984), Bell's Concerto (1984), Boudreau's Incantations III (1984),Arcuri's Prologue (1985), Wolfgang Rihm's chamber opera Jakob Lenz, presented in a co-production with the Montreal Goethe Institute (1985), Bouliane's A propos ... et le Baron Perché? (1985), Evangelista'sMerapi (1986), Boucher's Durer (1986), Papineau-Couture's Nuit polaire (1987), Boudreau's Versus (1987), Arseneault's The Aristocratic Lover (1987), Gougeon's Heureux qui, comme . . . (1987), Chan's Nuage précieux (1987),John Burke's Far Calls, Coming, Far! (1988), Daoust's Variations sur un air d'accordéon (1988), Lalonde's Mouvances, Errances et toute cette sorte d'ances (1988), Oliver's Aller-Retour (1988), Sharman's The Proximity of Mars (1988),Brady'sShadow Painting (1989), Dhomont's and Courchesne's Chroniques de la lumière (1989), Hamel's Deux baguettes dans un presto (1989), Thibault's Babel (Concerto de chambre) (1989),Gellman's Red Shoes (1990), Pierre Boulez' Messagesquisse (1990), Longtin's Citortia (1990), Bouhalassa's Le désir fauve (1991), Hamel's Théâtre navrant (1991), Harley's Étude pour une Fête (1991), Hyland's Quand le journal fermente comme un éclair claquemuré (1991), Chatman's Creatures of Earth and Sky (1991), Leduc's Un Bal masqué (1991), Lemire's Rimes et mesures dépourvues (1991), Lesage's Babylone - La porte du Dieu (1991), Palmieri's Erratum musical (music for non-thinkers) (1991), Pelletier's C.S.Q.M (1991), Tremblay's Musique du feu (1991), Lussier's Destination Soleil (1992), Morel's Lumières sculptées (1992), Provost's Eglogue - Le jardin des oliviers (1992), Bouliane's Paysage, Qu. (1993), Dolden's The Heart Tears Itself Apart With the Power of its Own Muscles. Resonance #3 (1994), Joachim's Stacheldraht (1994), Tremblay's L'arbre de Borobudur (1994), Boudreau's Neuf Zéniths II (1994-95), Daoust's Impromptu (1995), Thibault's Le cauchemar climatisé (1995), Hyland's Afterdreamingly (A Legend?) (1995-96), Bouchard's Compressions (1996), Sokolovic's Jeu des portraits (1996), Hamel's In auditorium (1998), Harman's Procession burlesque (1998), Oswald's Homonymy (1998), Collard's Concerto "Lucky Luke" (1999), Lesage's Le Livre des mélancolies (1999), Panneton's Volando (1999), Collard's Destin anémique (Voyage au centre du vide) (2000), Bashaw's Double entente (2002), and Oesterle's Anytime (2003).

In the numbers of its concerts and in the interest it has stimulated, the SMCQ has demonstrated its success in accomplishing its primary objectives. On the occasion of its 10th-anniversary concert Eric McLean wrote (Montreal Star, 10 Dec 1976): 'The Society deserves the warmest congratulations on such an important birthday ... today, [it] can not only rely on a considerable number of expert interpreters, but a new generation has also entered the field ... Just as important as the development of the ensemble, a faithful audience has been created for this repertoire and it is growing.' An archival collection is held at the ANQ in Montreal.

In the past several years, the SMCQ has produced large-scale musical events and festivals that have attracted international attention. In June 2000, it organized the Millennium Symphony, a massive musical collaboration, co-directed by Walter Boudreau and Denys Bouliane, involving 19 composers and staged for an audience of more than 40,000 people at Saint Joseph's Oratory in Montréal. This project won a Prix Opus for Event of the Year from the Conseil québécois de la Musique.

2003 was the inaugural year for the Montreal New Music Festival (MNM), a biennial event under the artistic direction of Walter Boudreau and Denys Bouliane and produced by the SMCQ in partnership with the McGill University Faculty of Music, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, la chaîne culturelle de Radio-Canada, and CBC Radio Two. The festival, which took place over a period of ten days, showcased the works of more than fifty composers and acted as an international meeting ground for composers, performers, producers, and broadcasters. Guests included: Elektra (Purform), l'Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, l'Ensemble de la SMCQ, the Hilliard Ensemble of London, Vienna's Klangforum, La Nef, the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble, the McGill Symphony Orchestra, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Quasar saxophone quartet, the Bozzini and Molinari string quartets, Réseaux, SuperMusique, the Trio Fibonacci, VivaVoce, and soloists Robert Cram, Lise Daoust, Jacques Drouin, Lori Freeman, Louis-Philippe Marsolais, Joseph Petric, Alain Trudel, and Lorraine Vaillancourt. Events, which were held at various venues in Montreal, included lectures, open rehearsals, master classes, a symposium, and 19 concerts.

The 2003 MNM Festival received several honours including the Grand Prize for Music from the Montreal Arts Council and five Prix Opus from the Conseil québécois de la musique: Event of the Year, Artistic Director of the Year (Denys Bouliane and Walter Boudreau), Musical Premiere of the Year (for Michel Longtin's Quaternions), and Guest Ensemble of the Year (for the Hilliard Ensemble of England).

2004 saw the inauguration of MusiMars, an international music festival held every two years in alternation with the MNM Festival. MusiMars is a collaborative event organized by the SMCQ, McGill University's Faculty of Music, and the National Arts Centre. It typically consists of one week of lectures, master-classes, and concerts in March dedicated to one (or several) internationally renowned composer(s). MusicMars 2004 focused on French composer Philippe Hurel and Canadian composer Howard Bashaw and paid homage to Gérard Grisey (d. 1998), a leader within the school of spectral music. Performers included: the National Arts Centre Ensemble under the direction of Denys Bouliane, the Ensemble SMCQ under the direction of Walter Boudreau, the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble under the direction of Denys Bouliane, the McGill Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Alexis Hauser, the McGill Percussion Ensemble under the direction of D'Arcy Gray, and Jethro Marks, Lori Freedman, Kyoko Hashimoto, Ingrid Schmithüsen, Louise-Andrée Baril, Alain Trudel, Yan Salafrank, Brigitte Poulin, and D'Arcy Gray. A series of four concerts featured repertoire of Grisey, Bashaw, Bouliane, Vivier, Hurel, Messiaen, John Rea, and Stephen Rogers.

The SMCQ ensemble was featured on more than 31 recordings between 1968 and 2003. In 2000, the SMCQ associated itself with the ATMA Classique Recording company, resulting in the production of a series of CDs devoted to major Québécois composers. Some of the most recent CDs include: Trois Concertos: Isabelle Panneton, Sean Ferguson, Vincent Collard (Atma Classique 2003), Les Lauréats: Prix Québec-Flandre (1998-2003): André Ristic, Wim Henderickx, Peter Swinnen, André Villeneuve, Annelies Van Parys (Atma Classique 2003), Walter's Freak House: Oeuvres de Walter Boudreau (Atma Classique 2002), Claude Vivier (Atma Classique 2001), In C: Terry Riley (Atma Classique 2000), and Les Vèpres de la Vierge: Gilles Tremblay (Analekta Fleur de lys 1998).

The SMCQ has received several prizes for its recordings including: the CMC's Best Recording Made in Canada (1983), the ADISQ Album of the Year for Homage à Michel-Georges Brégent (1995), and a Prix Opus for the recording Claude Vivier (2002).

The SMCQ manages the Prix Flandre-Québec, an international composition competition open to Québécois and Flemish composers. The prize was initially established in 1988 as a cultural exchange program between Québec and Flanders and intended to recognize talented composers and performers from both communities. Since 2000, the prize was reserved exclusively for composers. Thanks to a donation from the composer Gilles Tremblay, a new national composition competition will be established in the near future.

In 1997, the SMCQ launched a youth program entitled SMCQ Jeunesse dedicated to performing musical children's stories. Five children's productions have been presented to date including: The Tale of the Little Tailor (1997), Bouba ou Les Tableaux d'une Expédition (2001), Éclats de Rhythme (2002), Le Piano Muet (2003), and Tapajungle! (2004). In order to prepare children for performances, the SMCQ typically distributes educational activity books to schools entitled Diapason Notebooks.

In 2003, the SMCQ, the publisher Fides, and the recording label ATMA classique collaborated to produce a recorded book of Le Piano Muet - a tale written by Gilles Vigneault and set to music by Denis Gougeon. Subsequently, the French Académie Charles Cros honoured the disc with a Coup de Coeur prize. Other awards for SMCQ Jeunesse have included three Prix Opuses for Best Production for a Young Audience in 1997, 2001, and 2002.

Since 2001, the ensemble-in-residence at SMCQ Jeunesse has been QUAD, a quartet of young percussionists that incorporates a combination of traditional and non-traditional percussive instruments (such as keys, bottles, and the human body) into its musical compositions.


Further Reading

  • Gingras, Claude. 'Fondation d'une société de musique contemporaine,' Montreal La Presse, 19 Nov 1966

    Mather, Bruce. 'La Société de musique contemporaine du Québec,' Mcan, 25, Dec 1969

    Thériault, Jacques. 'The SMCQ is ahead of the game, because the MSO cannot change with the changing times,' CanComp, 46, Jan 1970

    Kendergi, Maryvonne. 'SMCQ's audience, program expand,' MSc, 256, Nov-Dec 1970

    McLean, Eric. 'Composers outstanding with new music,' Montreal Star, 13 Apr 1973

    Aprahamian, Felix. 'A splash from Canada,' London Sunday Times, 9 Nov 1977

    Fleuret, Maurice. 'Des Canadiens à Paris,' Nouvel Observateur, 680, 21-7 Nov 1977

    Schulman, Michael. 'Contemporary music groups thriving across Canada,' MSc, 303, Sep-Oct 1978

    Bail-Milot, Louise. 'Quinze ans, ça se fête!' Sonances, vol 1, Jan 1982

    Prévost, Pierre. 'SMCQ leader in world of contemporary music groups,' MSc, 325, May-Jun 1982

    Guérin, François. 'Les vingt ans de la SMCQ, un bilan éloquent,' Aria, vol 7, Winter 1985

    Métras, Claire. 'La Société de musique contemporaine du Québec,' Association for Canadian Studies ACS Newsletter, vol 12, Autumn 1990

    Galaise, Sophie. 'Serge Garant, directeur de la Société de Musique Contemporaine du Québec (1966-1986),' Cahiers de la Société Québécoise de Recherche en Musique, vol 1, Dec 1997

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