The Quartier des spectacles throws a party for Montrealers

May 18, 2011

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Yesterday was the 369th springtime since the founding of Montreal. It's a ripe old age, to be sure. And because you don't have to wait for a round number to contrive an excuse to celebrate, the Quartier des spectacles put together an unprecedented surprise party for Montrealers!

By Marie-Pierre Bouchard
At the busiest hours of the day, dozens of artists -- including some well-known faces --  from all disciplines were sent to the four corners of the Quartier des spectacles to present short, simple performances. Even if many passersby had to bustle past the performers and keep to their rigid downtown schedules, most were quite happy to see acrobats, actors and musicians come from out of nowhere to wish Montreal a happy birthday.


Pierre Carillo and its slack line
Some performances attracted considerable crowds, like the Opéra de Montréal singer who captivated a throng of spectators in front of a UQAM building on Saint-Denis, or Pascale Picard at Place Émilie-Gamelin. At Complexe Desjardins, I saw anonymous pedestrians let loose and dance to the irresistible accordion of DJ and multi-instrumentalist Socalled. Metro passengers were moved by the voices of Elisapie Isaac and Alexandre Desilets, even if they didn't recognize them! Alex Nevsky and his musicians kept smiling, kept singing and prevailed to overcome the din of construction across from the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde.


Monogrenade on the street
I saw a modern Romeo and Juliet (Benoît Drouin Germain and Annie Darisse) declare their love with simultaneous text messages. I saw a trio of narrow-limbed models, dressed by the Marie Saint-Pierre label, brave the cold to swivel on high heels at the corner of St-Denis and de Maisonneuve (Sensation Mode). Even if I missed some performances, like Duo Strumble's circus act or the "toilet-bowl monologue" (!) of actress Sabrina Bisson, I could catch them on my iPhone or follow the #feteMtl hashtag on Twitter.


Frédéric Lavallée as Cyrano de Bergerac
OK, it's true: the grey, wet and chilly weather dampened the impact of this extraordinary artistic manifestation. For the first part of the day, many artists took refuge indoors (particularly in the metro stations, Complexe Desjardins and Place des Arts), where they were received with enthusiasm. Julien Bioldeau and his brass quintet adapted like champs, scurrying around the corridors of Place des Arts to surprise commuters with lightning-quick flashmob-style performances. The organizers of the Mutek electronic music festival, playing in front of Théâtre Jean-Duceppe, made a serious splash with their musical bicycles.


Friction 2.0 : MUTEK and their musical bikes
What will stay with me from this day of celebration? That Montrealers are still ready and able to tune into art, even during a glum weekday. That artists bring people together, and that they really do want to spread culture throughout the metropolis. And that the Quartier des spectacles, as its scaffolding comes down and its beauty unfolds, is more determined than ever to make an impression on us.