Orchestral concerts include much-loved Broadway musical

Apart from Montreal’s Métro, one of Mayor Jean Drapeau’s legacies is his promotion of the Concerts populaires de Montréal, a summer series designed to broaden the appeal of classical and symphonic music.

The idea was to make orchestral music accessible and affordable, in particular to those living in eastern Montreal. When general manager Sylvie Demers took over four years ago, she extended its reach by injecting a more popular flavor to the usual classical repertoire.

Now in its 55th consecutive season, the concert series is designed to appeal to a wide spectrum of music lovers and judging by the lineup, is well worth the trip to the Centre Pierre Charbonneau, at 3000 Viau St. to enrich your summer-in-the city experience. Its production of the music from West Side Story, with a full orchestra and chorus of 25 singing the original English lyrics, is worthy of note. There is free parking and it’s a short walk from the Viau metro.

The “populaire” part of the label was to underline broad appeal, and the setting in the 1960s was the Maurice Richard Arena. It is organized by Comité Musique Maisonneuve, part of its year-round programming to serve eastern Montreal residents, with financial support from the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve borough.

The acoustics have been adjusted so the sound will be “comparable to what you get at the Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier of Place des Arts,” Demers said.

The opener, on June 26, at 7:30 pm, sold out quickly, a salute to the great songs that are synonymous with Frank Sinatra and Michael Bublé, with a big band arrangment by Orchestre La Sinfonia de Lanaudière, and several vocalists. Only a few tickets remain for the closing show Aug. 1, starring tenor Marc Hervieux in La dolce vita, a program of great Italian music, including operatic masterpieces, backed by a 30-member orchestra.

Tickets are available for all other concerts, Thursday from 7:30pm.

July 4Les 4 Saisons d’André Gagnon Symphonique – a tribute to the most beautiful melodies composed by pianist André Gagnon, is the focus, as interpreted by pianist/arranger Stéphane Aubin. Vocalist Kathleen Fortin will sing excerpts from Gagnon’s opera Nelligan, and several “surprises” are promised.

July 11 – Opera is on the menu with Mozart, Mozart, Mozart – the composer’s most beautiful arias, with many of the brightest new Canadian voices training with l’Opéra de Montréal’s workshop, and the Orchestre de l’Agora, featuring younger musicians, directed by Nicolas Ellis, a 2018 Radio-Canada discovery of the year.

July 18 – Symphonic music composed for film is the theme of Du cinéma, Bien entendu! Lise Bellehumeur will direct the Sherbrooke-based Orchestre du Septième Art. Simultaneously, film clips from the movies that featured the music will be shown on giant screens.

July 25 – An all-time Broadway favourite, West Side Story – music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim – will be performed by the 73 younger musicians of l’Orchestre de la Francophonie, directed by Jean-Philippe Tremblay, and 25 young singers, notably French soprano Anne-Marie Suire. Says Demers: “When you see this performance, you will never again react in the same way to the film’s soundtrack!” Tickets are available online ranging from $39.15 for seating at tables to $31.15, discounted to $34.15 and $26.15, for 60plus.

Tickets: concertspopulairesdemonteal.com, or 514-872-2200

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