By Michel Joanny-Furtin

When the Groupe de recherche sur la médiatisation du son (GRMS) takes part in Nuit Blanche, it goes above and beyond, presenting a marvelous musical, vocal and artistic evening, which celebrated the 30th anniversary of Chants Libres, a vocal creation company founded in 1990 offering a platform and stage for the composers of our time. L’Agora Hydro-Québec glistened with an abundance of sounds for the 15th edition of Montreal’s Nuit Blanche-Montréal en Lumière.

Following last year’s success, the GRMS collaborated with Hexagram-UQAM and the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) for a second time, with a collection of the music of today, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the vocal creation company Chants Libres.

Directed by composer Simon-Pierre Gourd, the Groupe de recherche sur la médiatisation du son (GRMS) assembles researchers whose practice attempts to grasp sound reality in its different facets. GRMS explores the relationships between sound production, the contexts of its transmission and its phenomenological angles.

Voice and Immersion

Aptly coordinated by the mezzo-soprano Marie-Annick Béliveau, this excellently-themed evening was entitled Voice and Immersion. During this 6-hour event, the immersion was complete for more than 400 audience members who passed through, submerging themselves under the dome of sound of the 32 loudspeakers set up by Hexagram-UQAM.

Crédit : Marilyn Carnier (Chants Libres)


The circadian disposition of the seats made it possible to enjoy the moving multi-stereophony from one piece to the next. A magical journey of sound, music, voice and song. The sounds spun and swung at the risk, or should I say pleasure, of the listener finding himself in a delightful imbalance when moving around. I had this joyful experience! Imagine light gusts of music spinning around you…

Pauline in 5 parts

The evening was set up in a lovely way, composed of 5 parts, with musically immersive moments, compositions from the Chants Libres archives, and a beautiful celebration of Chants Libres’ 30 years with excerpts of created works produced by the company over the course of the last 3 decades.

The lullabies collected by Madeleine Leclair were the final touch on each part of the evening. This repertoire born of humanity, with melodies and accents of the four corners of the world, offered us other original music to nourish our culture.

To speak is to sing

After the words of welcome and evening introduction by Simon-Pierre Gourd, composer and member of GRMS, Tiphaine Legrand directed a group of students and the first spectators of the evening with gentle confidence, in a work by Katia Makdissi-Warren based on the sounds of nature : reproducing the wind with humming and sounds of ff, ss and ch; melodic phrases with “Ayeiyeo”- first a capella and then in canon- based on the rhythm of the participants’ steps evoking the gait of a bear; and vocalises on the song of geese. Some forty people took joyful part in this experience: we were immersed!

The experienced radio personality, Cynthia Dubois, punctuated the evening by whispering the context of each piece in our ears with her warm and gentle voice. And so the voice was lured bit by bit into the evening: the works presented took on a variety of forms (interviews, conference excerpts, doubled voices), both spoken and sung. Some of these brought out the sounds of the voice with onomatopoeia, contorting the words and pronunciation to make musical and creative material. In this way, the vocal panoply took up all the space, with sounds and music, both played and electronic.

Crédit : Jerome Bertrand (SMCQ)


Creativity in constant evolution

A big moment in La Grande Nuit Voice and Immersion, the 30th anniversary celebration of Chants Libres allowed us to live and relive beautiful lyric and creative memories. Excerpts from about 10 of Chants Libres’ 17 productions brought back a lot of memories : Yo soy la desintegración (Jean Piché), Opéra Féérie (Gilles Tremblay), The Trials of Patricia Isasa (Kristin Norderval), Le Rêve de Grégoire (Pierre Michaud), Les Chants du Capricorne (Giacinto Scelsi), L’Enfant des Glaces (Zach Settel), Manuscrit trouvé à Saragosse (José Evangelista), Love Songs (Ana Sokolović), Lulu, le chant souterrain (Alain Thibault).


Presented in this non-chronological order, the selections allowed us to better grasp contemporary vocal creation over the last three decades: the themes, the integration of non-musical sounds, vibrations and electronics, the spoken voice, etc. Its development through the meandering artistic processes of composers using abstraction, poetry, religious myths and legends, fiction, fantasy, or… politics!

Stéphanie Lessard. Photo : Jerome Bertrand (SMCQ)


An enriched vocal repertoire

Memorable works, flagship works also, which have punctuated the creative process, making it move away from more typical signs of musical creativity towards a more off-the-wall orchestral and vocal expression, and so enriched, new, and truly modern!

Several moments that were evoked during La Grande Nuit expressed gratitude for the incredible tenacity, visionary commitment and deep-rooted passion found in Pauline Vaillancourt, founder and artistic director of Chants Libres. Marie-Annick Béliveau, Stéphanie Lessard and Ghislaine Deschambault, as well as an UQAM student choir, generously offered their live voices, and so lifted up these different works. Their contributions showed that today’s music, sometimes even electronic, is also and always a living art!