Monday, June 30, 2014

L'Orchestre des hommes de l'orchestre ont soufflé mon esprit ...

Today is total chill time - that's been part of the plan - so small wonder that we slept for 11 hours! Yesterday, however, was full tilt boogie and what a gas as we picnicked on Mount Royal for my birthday, wandered around McGill University and then headed to the Jazz Festival for the most incredible musical theatre I have ever experienced: L'Orchestre d'Hommes-Orchestres' performance of Cabaret Brise Jour (Shattered Cabaret - a tribute to Kurt Weil.)
Here's the recap: Mount Royal is THE place to be on a stunning Sunday afternoon in Montreal. People of all ages stroll through the rolling fields and trees. Periodically they will stop along the way to share some bread, cheese and wine so we figured we should join them. After all, this was to be my birthday celebration with the kids, so quand à Montréal ... Our sweet children brought baquettes, brie, tomatoes and cukes plus red wine (you can drink in public place throughout Quebec IF it related to a meal!) They even brought along some incredible French pastries for desert. So, we feasted and talked, gave thanks to God and even took a bit of a nap on the grass.

In time, little Louie woke up so we played and giggled before heading over to

encounter les Tams Tams - a place, my son in law said, that time forgot - as it is always a scene straight out of Woodstock. Hippies of all ages, sizes and races gather every Sunday at 12 noon for a drum circle. Others from within the ranks of the gentle unwashed line the perimeter with tie dyed dresses, various silver bracelets and rings, hand-tooled leather goods and other
paraphernalia needed to affect just the right 21st century hippie groove. We danced and enjoyed the toned down bacchanalia for 15 minutes and then moved on. Upon leaving I was heard to say, "You know, I've always loved that style but never really fit in - then or now - because I prefer to wash my hair on a regular basis." 

After another hour of walking and talking, the kids got ready to head back to the USA where they'll spend the next week on Cape Cod. We quickly regrouped at our flat, said sweet goodbyes and headed back to the Jazz Festival for Cabaret Brise Jour. I am a huge fan of genre-bending art - we discovered some wildass creations in London 8 years ago so I'm always on the lookout for new experiments - and the description of this show captured my imagination a full six months before we arrived:

Originally founded as a music ensemble in 2002 in Quebec City, L’orchestre d’hommes-orchestres (LODHO) came to be over the course of various projects which catapulted innovation into a makeshift interdisciplinary workshop. The ensemble’s raw productions take on a unique role as they transform the music concert genre into “music that can be seen”, with a raw vigor and captivating stage presence. Having previously performed their enigmatic take on the music of Tom Waits to sold out crowds at Theatre Junction GRAND, L’orchestre d’hommes-orchestres are back to take on the music of another outsider genius – Kurt Weill, the great composer who collaborated with Bertolt Brecht on The Threepenny Opera, and fled Germany in 1933 to France then eventually New York.  In a Franco-German-English mix, the eight musicians-singers-actors revive the horrors of war, the lights of Broadway and the cozy atmosphere of music halls.

And did they ever deliver on recreate the horror, thrill, decadence, fear, shame, joy and tragic innocence of those who chose to live on the edge and explore life to the fullest in the Weimar Republic! This was not a note for note reproduction of Weill, but a total reinterpretation that pulled you ever deeper into the angst of that era. It was often visually disturbing. One song featured a vocal quartet of two women and two men: when the men sang they clamped their massive hands over the faces of the women forcing them into ackward posses of submission; when they were released, they sang with beautiful innocence until the final chorus when they themselves resumed the postures of subjugation. Another song featured the lead singer performing with a plastic bag over her head as she moved closer and closer to suicide. To be sure, there was also humor and massive amounts of creativity in both the staging and sound.
By the end of the 90 minutes, it felt like you had entered a twisted time-war. My legs were weak and my bearings uncertain. Reality seemed unreal for about 30 minutes afterwards. I wanted to weep as well as talk through everything we had just encountered, but I didn't know where to begin. Robert Lapage, writing about the troupe in his presentation of the Glenn Gould award, put it like this:

Finding yourself out of your comfort zone is something extremely stimulating - that's exactly what L'orchestre d'hommes-orchestres does for you. Somewhere between music, poetry and visual performance, they create their own art form and you suddenly find yourself treading territories you never knew existed. They turn the ordinary into extraordinary, the expected into the unexpected, and noise into harmony. They are truly unique. (read more @http://

I can only say that I cannot wait to see these artists again. They have created a show celebrating the music and vision of Tom Waits - another genius who is well-acquainted with the troubling and sweet underbelly of contemporary life - and it must be equally riveting. 


ddl said...

Happy belated BIRTHDAYS to both you and your wife!

safe travels too.

RJ said...

thanks so much...

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