I recently had the good fortune to speak with Claire Guimond, the Founder and Artistic Director of the Arion Baroque Orchestra, an ensemble that she started in 1981. Claire is the flautist in addition to managing the orchestra’s repertoire selection and management. The orchestra has built a solid following and international reputation, and we spoke in advance of the orchestra’s opening concert series for the 2018-2019 Season at Bourgie Hall.

“Arion started as a chamber quartet in 1981, and remained so for our first 15 years. We then added musicians to become a baroque chamber orchestra, performing on the same style of instruments used several hundred years ago. We now have a lot of younger players, and this has created an interesting blend of youthful and experienced musicians. And of course the new talents add freshness to the orchestra’s sound and vibrancy.”

“People who like jazz often like baroque music because there’s a little more freedom in the performance. “

“Baroque is the most beautiful music – it really touches my soul. It’s music on a human scale that talks to your heart. Baroque instruments are different from those found in a modern symphony orchestra. For example, the stringed instruments look the same – but the baroque strings are gut, rather than silver, the violin bows are more arched, and the basses are different. Also, with twenty-one musicians our orchestra is smaller; and therefore you can hear the individual instruments coming together to create a sound that is greater than the sum of its parts. Most people are surprised to learn that they are already familiar with baroque music – they just didn’t recognize it as such.”

Arion Baroque Orchestra

Artistic Director Claire Guimond (top) and
members of Arion Baroque Orchestra
Photos: Jean Guimond

“Our guest conductors lead from their instrument, usually harpsichord or violin. And in the intimate Bourgie Hall, you are close enough to see the communication and interaction between conductor and the orchestra.”

Arion is able to bring world-class musician/conductors to participate in their concerts. “We always have a quest for excellence in our programs. We offer a unique performance opportunity for our guest conductors; beginning with enough time for several rehearsals prior to the performance. They get to know us, and there’s time to experiment a little. Because we’re used to working with new conductors, the musicians are open-minded and accustomed to accepting new ideas.” Claire adds; “The classical music world is a small community, and word gets around about Arion’s unique format, and the star musician/conductors are eager to come to Montreal to work with us.”

Arion concerts are accessible, with the same program scheduled over four days and at different times. The first concert on Thursday is a shorter one-hour presentation without intermission from 7 to 8pm, with an after concert talk with Claire and the visiting conductor.  The Friday full program starts at 8pm. On Saturday, the concert begins at 4pm and at 2pm on Sunday afternoon.

“We like to explore a different world in each concert, offering our audience a different musical experience. We include a balance of ‘known’ works with some less so, as a bit of experimentation. Even after thirty-eight years, the adrenaline still kicks in before we take the stage. We bring an energetic collaboration to the conductor – that’s when the magic happens!”

Arion opens their season with a program that includes compositions by Vivaldi, Bach and Telemann, considered to be three of the finest Baroque composers. Guest conductor and harpsichordist Luca Gugliemi will lead the orchestra in their performances on October 11. 12. 13 and 14.

Soprano Nathalie Poulin will join Arion and harpsichordist/conductor Alexander Weimann on November 1, 2, 3 and 4 to perform Italian and Italian-inspired arias by Handel and Porpora in a program titled Love Giveth and Love Taketh Away.

The third concert program on January 10, 11, 12 and 13 will feature choral works by Henry Purcell. The orchestra will be joined by Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, a choir acclaimed for the “hypnotic beauty” of its performances and conducted by its Artistic Director Andrew McAnerny.

For the fourth program, the popular Lorenzo Coppola is returning to perform and conduct with soloist Cristina Esclapez Gil. Titled Haydn, Mozart, Rossini: Scribes Of The Soul, the concerts will be on March 14, 15, 16 and 17.

For the closing concert series of the 38th season on May 2, 3 4 and 5; the program Musica Notturna will include compositions by Vivaldi, Barsanti, Boccherini and Mozart, led by conductor/violinist Enrico Onofri.

For the full list of Arion Baroque Orchestra’s 2018-2019 Season, and to subscribe, please visit their user-friendly website: www.arionbaroque.com or call: 514-355-1825 Enjoy!

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