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Commission: Valérie Milot

La Madone is a love song that depicts the contemplation of the mother with child. With the ascending and descending patterns of the arpeggios, and the grating of the bass strings, produced by the action of the pedals (called esoteric sounds in harpist lingo), we continuously hear the rocking chair on which the mother is singing. Her words are sometimes soft, sometimes distressful, and at the same time filled with weariness and admiration … those moments shared by a mother and her newborn child. Both end up falling asleep in the softness of the harmonic sounds, and in the bliss of belonging to each other.

Powerful coincidence: During the composition of this piece I was carrying my youngest daughter, who was born to my surprise on Christmas day, whence the title La Madone.

On the technical side, La Madone allows the performer to appreciate different colors as well as a different manner of playing the harp. The twelfth harmonics have a particular tone while offering a nice way of playing chromatic notes without changing any pedal. I must give credit of this discovery to my composing mentor, Mr. Pierick Houdy. Moreover, the inalterability of two lowest strings of the harp helps to resolve some pedal enigmas and makes possible what is usually impossible to write for the harp. As for the esoteric sounds, they will not be played by the fingers, but again, produced by the action of the pedals. The discs of the instrument will determine how clear and audible these sounds will be. The performer will have to “find his/her freedom” and play the piece according to the harp used … one doesn’t go without the other. When listening to La Madone, we do feel the free and improvised style as if it would be written for voice, harp and double bass accompaniment. On paper, each of these parts are written on their own staves or stanzas, however, they form a unique whole, as a jazz trio.


  • [Image: Luc Beauchemin]
    Thursday, June 17 – Friday, December 17, 2021