With its concerts, its Homage Series, its Montreal/New Music International Festival (MNM), its youth-music programme, radio broadcasts, North American and European tours, a competition for composers, and more than twenty full-length recordings, the work of the SMCQ has resulted in a fertile breeding ground for new works of art, commissions, and masterful performances of contemporary music “classics”.
Founded in 1966 by a group of prominent Montreal musicians and composers, including Wilfrid Pelletier, Jean Papineau-Couture, Serge Garant and Maryvonne Kendergian, the SMCQ has assumed a mandate since the beginning of its existence to promote contemporary music from both this country and abroad.
Managed by composers for composers, the SMCQ has been led by four different artistic directors to date: composers Serge Garant (1966-89), Gilles Tremblay (1986-88), Walter Boudreau (1988-2022), and Ana Sokolović (since 2022).
The SMCQ was the force behind a number of major artistic events, on its own and in collaboration with a number of leading organizations involved with the creation of new art in Quebec, including the fields of dance (O Vertigo), opera (Chants Libres and l’Opéra de Montréal), “traditional” concert ensembles (The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, McGill University’s Faculty of Music (Now Schulich School of Music), the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Theatre la Chapelle, the Molinari quartet, and the Orchestre symphonique de Québec to name a few.
The organization has commissioned, premiered and recorded a number of works that are fundamental to the contemporary repertoire, by artists from our own nation and abroad. One unforgettable example is the Symphonie du Millénaire (Symphony of the Millenium), a collective work by nineteen composers performed for over 40,000 persons on the 3rd of June, 2000, at Saint Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.
Prizes and Awards
Through this incredible vitality, the SMCQ has garnered many prizes and awards. Here are some of them:
- Grand Prix du Conseil des Arts de la Communauté urbaine de Montréal (1991)
- Prix Opus “Événement de l’année 2000” (Conseil québécois de la musique) for The Symphony of the Millenium
- Lauréat musique au Grand Prix 2003 du Conseil des Arts de Montréal;
- 6 Opus prize in 2003 (Conseil québécois de la musique) for: “Personality of the year” (Walter Boudreau), “Event of the year” (festival MNM), “Artistic Directors of the year” (Walter Boudreau and Denys Bouliane), “Musical creation of the year”, “Foreign artist of the year”, “Concert of the year”;
- “Coup de cœur” 2003 from l’Académie Charles Cros (Paris, France) for the Audio-Book Le piano Muet (SMCQ Jeunesse);
- The Molson Prize for the arts 2003, from the Canada Art Council to Walter Boudreau;
- The Prix Denise-Pelletier 2004, to Walter Boudreau awarded by the Quebec Government
The SMCQ Concerts
Every year, the SMCQ presents a series of concerts that are representative of national and international tendencies. With its Ensemble, the SMCQ has continued to bring a wide gamut of contemporary music to the listening public. Currently conducted by Walter Boudreau, the Ensemble forms the core of most of the season’s concerts, with performances of works by Boulez, Kagel, Stockhausen, Varèse, Xenakis, Garant, Vivier, Tremblay, Cage, Rea, Andriessen, Grisey, Boudreau, Messiaen, Bouliane, Scelsi, Reich ou Penderecki.
For the past several years, the SMCQ has taken a number of soloists and ensembles under its wing, and has established a residence programme for fledgling ensembles, such as Quasar, saxophone quartet and Quad, percussions originales.
The SMCQ as well plays host to prestigious and rising stars each year, including renown soloists and groups such as the Ensemble InterContemporain conducted by Pierre Boulez, the Arditti String Quartet, the Percussions de Strasbourg, Mauricio Kagel’s Kölner Ensemble für Musiktheater dirigé par Mauricio Kagel, Steve Reich and Musicians or the Gruppe Stockhausen.
The Montreal/New Music festival
The MNM festival was launched in 2003. This is an international biennial event given in partnership with Radio-Canada’s radio broadcast sector and Montreal’s university sector. The MNM Festival clears the stage for the performance of new works. Between solo and orchestral works, the event brings together the most passionate thinkers and theoreticians of the music of our time. MNM, held for the first time in March of 2003, consists of ten days of concerts, lectures, master classes and youth activities. The festival was awarded the Conseil Québécois de la Musique’s 2003 Prix Opus for “Event of the Year.”
The Youth Programme (SMCQ Jeunesse)
Since 1997, five musical children stories have been brought to life for more than fifty thousand children by SMCQ Jeunesse. The programme has been recognized by the Conseil québécois de la musique’s Prix Opus on three occasions for as many productions. In 2002, SMCQ Jeunesse joined hands with the prestigious publisher Fides, to produce a recorded book (with ATMA classique) of a poetic tale written by Gilles Vigneault and set to music by Denis Gougeon.
In 2004-2003, SMCQ Jeunesse launched TapaJungle!, (after Rudyard Kipling’s work) with QUAD, percussions originales and actor Félix Beaulieu-Duchesneau. It was performed over 40 times on tour in Québec in 2004-2005 and nominated for an Opus Prize in 2004.
Other projects are being developed by SMCQ Jeunesse: a new musical tool created by composer Yves Daoust, the Musicolateur, is an eclectic composing machine that will be utilize in a variety of entertaining and educational undertakings.
Finally, in the fall of 2005 SMCQ Jeunesse is launching a new DVD featuring interviews, musical excerpts, and games on Québécois and Canadian composers, designed for elementary and high school students.