OSQ and its choir perform a heart-to-heart concert

Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

The Choir of the OSQ and the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec gave a heart-warming concert on Feb. 1.

Many hearts beat as one last Thursday, Feb. 1, as the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec (OSQ) under the direction of Alain Trudel, and the choir of the OSQ, led by choirmaster David Rompré, presented the première performance of Coeur (heart).

Of course, in French, a choir is a choeur (just add an “h” to coeur). In this case, the choir was truly at the heart of this concert.

Coeur consists of five symphonic poems written by Dr. François Reeves, an eminent cardiologist and associate professor of medicine at Université de Montréal, which were set to music by renowned Quebec composer, conductor and teacher Gilles Bellemare.

As Bellemare and Reeves explained before the concert began, they were greatly inspired by the sounds of beating hearts, which they recreated through musical instruments and voices. Dr. Reeves’ passion for the cardiac organ and for music are obvious. The different types of musical rhythms produced by the heart inspired him to write the lyrics and to work with his friend and composer Bellemare to create the music.

The composition follows a cardiologist on his rounds to the rooms of five patients with heart problems.

In Room 101, a young mother suffers from an irregular heartbeat. Her shortness of breath and the painful contractions of her heart remind her of giving birth. In Room 103, a man worried about his severe heart condition is calmed by a visiting friend. In Room 105, a woman sits at the bedside of her husband who suffers from aortic stenosis, or a narrowing of the left ventricle of his heart, that causes severe pain and dizziness. They talk about their love and affection for each other. The patient in Room 201, who is suffering from a very weak heart, is reminded of his father who died after a similar lengthy illness.

A young woman in Room 203 is fighting a life-and-death battle. She is brought back to life with a defibrillator, but recalls the near-death experience when she felt as if she was nothing but stardust. The dramatic sound of the defibrillator was produced by all 80 choristers stomping a foot simultaneously on the risers on which they were standing.

Bellmare explained, “Coeur goes so much further than the regular heartbeat. The emotions sensed and expressed by the patients are even more [essential]. It is because of this that I could compose a work of art based on the rhythms of different irregular heartbeats. The orchestra and the choir are constantly soaked in these rhythms.”

The concert opened with Johannes Brahms’ turbulent and tormented “Tragic Overture,” which led into the equally turbulent and tormented Coeur.

The second half of the concert was dedicated to choral pieces from some of Giuseppe Verdi’s most famous operas. The orchestra and choir performed the Scottish choral air “Patria Oppressa” from Macbeth, the gypsy and matador choruses from La Traviata, the “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore, “Va Pensiero,” (Hasten my thoughts on golden wings … inspire us to endure our suffering), the sad chorus of the Hebrew slaves in Nabucco, and “Gloria all’Egitto” (Glory to Egypt) from Aida.

For more information on upcoming OSQ concerts, visit www.osq.org.

The next concert featuring the OSQ choir will be the Brahms Requiem directed by Jacques Lacombe, with sololists Ellen Wieser and James Westman, on April 25.