En «toupartouphonie» (An “alloverphony”)

A collective work for 19 composers, 333 musicians, 2000 bell-ringers, 15 steeples, one great organ, one 56 bells’ chime and 2 fire trucks

It will have happened only once!

“One of the craziest project imagined to celebrate the New Millenium” as have said the French magazine L’Express will have happened only once. This free-for-the-whole-family-mega-concert will have been a unique rendezvous, the only occasion to live an unforgettable sonorous experience.

Imagine the scene: on the 3rd of June at dusk, close to 2500 performers attack the first notes of a mega symphony lasting 90 minutes. The public is literally surrounded by the sound of 15 sets of church bells and 15 groups of musicians dispersed over the Oratory’s site. This is the world premiere of a collective work by 19 Quebec composers: the Millennium Symphony. This “stage” was 1 km2 that could receive not less than 10 000 spectators.

A completely unusual work

Based on the Gregorian melody Veni Creator, the Millennium Symphony is divided into seven sections bearing evocative titles: Herald (Appel); Hell (Enfer); Purgatory (Purgatoire); Contemplation (Aurora Borealis) (Contemplation - Aurores boréales); Paradise (Paradis); Ascension; Apotheosis (and Epilogue) (Apothéose - et Épilogue). The work will be punctuated by the most grandiose pealing of bells ever imagined: a pre-recorded selection of 15 of Montreal church’s bells, along with the Oratory’s carillon will resound at precise moments during the performance.

The bell-ringers

The public was especially invited to participate in the performance of this most unusual symphony, by obtaining one of the 2000 molten bronze bells made by the Obertino Foundry in France, all engraved and numbered 1 to 2000. No musical training was necessary to participate: those who had obtained their bell were seated in the centre of the performance site and performed under the direction of section leaders.

On location, all of Montreal’s technical sound resources were deployed to ensure the broadcast of the work in what is termed “toupartouphonie” (complete surround-sound). An impressive array of lighting equipment had transformed the site into a scenic production area measuring 1 square kilometres capable of accommodating tens of thousands of spectators.

On the evening of June 3rd, 2000, they were all there to give you the thrill of your life: L’Arsenal à musique, Codes d’accès, Chants Libres, l’Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, Les Idées heureuses, I Musici de Montréal, Musica Camerata, le Nouvel ensemble Moderne, the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, the Petits chanteurs du Mont-Royal, Productions SuperMémé, the Quatuor Molinari, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal. In addition to all these groups, the Oratory’s massive organ and the members of the Royal 22nd Regiment Band marching on the site will also perform in full regalia.

Walter Boudreau and Denys Bouliane

The idea for this incredible project originated with Walter Boudreau, the Artistic Director of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) who had already imagined such a venture thirty years ago while seated atop Mount Royal contemplating the city and its belfries during the early hours of the morning… In 1998, the project had taken shape under the aegis of the Conseil québécois de la musique, whose Chair was Lorraine Vaillancourt. Since September of 1998, responsibility for the production was assumed by the SMCQ, which acted as the event’s designated producer.

Artistic Directors Walter Boudreau and Denys Bouliane gathered together a team of 19 composers, and conducted their collective score of 400 pages in a performance featuring an array of ensembles of all types that included groups specializing in early music, classical music and contemporary music.

Without doubt the most important musical happening in 2000 in North America, the Millennium Symphony was a grandiose celebration, a unique moment uniting the lifeblood of the musical milieu in a moment of ultimate communion on a highly symbolic location that embodies the most salient elements of Montreal’s heritage.