On a quiet Sunday afternoon in November, Sarah Fraser of Salon Vert opened her house for a second fall concert. As attendees drove up the long gravel lane, two dogs appeared to run beside the cars, and a huge turkey waddled up as if to escort the guests into the farmhouse. It was the final event in this year’s series of concerts organized by Maison de la Musique.
The old house itself has gone through a lot of repairs. Rotten wood found in the middle of the building had to be removed and the resulting space gave birth to the concert area. The room is about forty feet long, with windows that span one entire wall; they boast a western view with a couple of 200-year-old maple trees and after that, an open field. The high pine ceiling is just one year old and adds a warm glow to the space. At the far end of the room the old fireplace stands, with candles flickering on the mantle. A long hallway connects the concert room to the original house that was built in 1840. The kitchen, which is situated there, was alive with the sounds of food preparation.
From August to November, the Maison de la Musique de Sorel-Tracy organized tours for the Reseau des Salons de Musique du Quebec in eight musical salons. The musical performances were repeated three times throughout the region. Before COVID 19, there were nearly 14 salons; but now only nine remain, Maison de la Musique being one.
In September, Trio Guitares Nomades performed three times, followed by Ukrainian pianist Serhiy Salov who also gave three shows. The last performances to take place were those featuring the duo of cellist Stéphane Tétreault and violinist Elvira Misbakhova. They performed two concerts: first in L’Acadie church in Saint- Jean-sur-Richelieu, and next at Salon Vert in Hinchinbrooke on November 26.
Rachel Doyon, founder and general director of Maison de la Musique, noticed the importance of small venues early on. She was instrumental in obtaining a grant from Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec (CALQ) and began to set up a network of salons across the province. “We are talking about small cultural places that we find mainly in the regions with a capacity of 75 places or less,” states Doyon. The mantra of the Reseau des Salon de Musique du Quebec (RSMQ) is “Come together to be stronger,” which refers to a network of salons that support each other by exchanging ideas and artists.
George Nicholson, musician, author, and Radio Canada personality, explains the importance of the salons: “With small venues like this, you remember the musician, the home, and the region.” He adds, “We need to invest in music. We need to create a place for musicians. If classical music is to survive, they need to fill halls.” Nicholson points out that these small venues give young musicians exposure and opportunities to play. “This is where the network becomes essential. The main purpose of the network is to build a program and travel with it, not to perform just once.”
At this final concert the room was filled to capacity, seating approximately 45 people. Sarah Fraser’s invitations were sent first to the Salon mailing list, and tickets sold out quickly.
A perfect setting
The musicians mounted the small wooden stage. Stéphane Tétreault cradled the 316-year-old Stradivarius cello to his shoulder. This instrument was generously lent to him by Sophie Desmarais. Elvira Misbakohova, bow in hand, looked to him for direction to start. As the music began, the strains of Beethoven’s Allegro and Menuetto were mournful and then suddenly alive.
The duo played an array of compositions, from Lullaby and Grotesque by Rebecca Clarke to pieces by Paul Hindemith, Reinhold Glière, Witold Lutosławski, and ending with Astor Piazzolla’s La Calle 92, a piece Tétreault describes as “having lots of attitude.” As the last piece ended, the audience gave a standing ovation and then an encore was played. Misbakhova thanked the crowd and, with a wave of her hand towards the pastoral view, she remarked that the farmhouse is a perfect setting for a concert such as this.
The performance ended with a roaring round of applause, and food and drinks were served. The room was alive with conversation and sporadic laughter. Throughout the entire hour-and-a-half performance, ten-year-old Briella O’Hare – the youngest patron present – sat transfixed by the music. Afterwards she remarked, “I really liked the loud parts. I loved the concert, and I want to come back!” The party atmosphere continued as the November light faded. All those present agreed that it had been a successful year.
For more information on Maison de la Musique visit www.maisondelamusique.org.