When I began my career in music, I saw myself as an artist, a musician, a singer-songwriter, in short, almost everything but a performer. The word “performer” was almost the last one that came to mind when speaking of my work. Why? Because I imagine that, in a way, I held on to the popular terminology of “singer-songwriter”, meaning artists who do more than sing, but who also write, who also play…
For me, the performer meant the one who applied his or her talent in service to the words and notes of others only, like a messenger responsible for conveying what they had to say.
Yet, I am the daughter of an extraordinarily unique artist who has built her entire career around the interpretation of others’ works. I am also a great admirer of the jazz tradition which has been built around the interpretation of standards from the Great American Songbook.
I think I also suffered from a certain impostor syndrome since I did not perceive my voice as being particularly powerful or singular enough to make me an artist in my own right. I felt the same about my piano playing. Jack of all trades, master of none … Someone involved in many things without really mastering anything.
Hidden behind my piano, I felt I deserved applause only if I wrote, played, and sang in eighteen thousand languages. My voice was not beautiful enough, strong enough, touching enough, to be the centre of attention. Everything had to be dressed up.
Then, two years ago, this vision of things I had was completely blown away.
Two years ago, in the space of a little less than two months, I participated in two concerts which made me understand that, I too, could take on the title of performer, and fully assume it.
First, there was the moment I played the opening act for Jean-Pierre Ferland at the Maison symphonique, accompanied by the OSM under the direction of the excellent Simon Leclerc. I had to interpret four songs, including the moving How Insensitive by Antonio Carlos Jobim. I rose from the piano to go to front stage, at the moment Simon was brilliantly transforming this bossa-nova into orchestral work. Doing nothing else, standing in the middle of the stage, I sang Jobim’s words and notes. My whole body, my whole soul, vibrated, accompanied by a sea of thrilling strings and brass.
And I understood. I understood the art of interpretation was not so much to be technically capable of singing or playing the notes and words written by someone else. It was rather to feel them as powerfully as did the one who brought them into the world; to feel them to the point of being able to lie to and convince ourselves they were emanating only from us.
That evening, I understood, without my piano, standing alone, backed by a grand orchestra, that this was one of the most wonderful sensations I could experience.
Then, a few weeks later, in the same room, I went on stage to sing Piaf, with the joyful Piaf a 100 ans. Vive la môme! troupe. This time, I was sitting at the piano when I experienced the same emotion. I sang Mon Dieu, written, obviously, by others than myself. I sat down and started the first chords of the song. I was transported, by the words, by the intensity of the emotion, I made mine this piece that was not my own. I felt like a real performer, an artist capable of fully delivering something I had not created.
On March 14, at our gala celebrating Artisti’s 20th anniversary, we presented two awards to two outstanding performers. The first award, the Lumière Award, went to Julie Lamontagne. Julie is not only a seasoned pianist, who masterfully performs jazz, pop and classical, but also has an approach that is far from being limited to a perfect technique or a vast vocabulary. Julie’s playing is distinguished first and foremost by her great musicality as well as the emotion that emerges therefrom, and her interpretations needed to be brought to light.
The second award, the Audace Award, was given to Marc Hervieux, who, in my opinion, represents the quintessence of a performer. Lyrical art is the tradition of interpretation par excellence. Everything happens in the way the voice, body, theatricality and movement convey the notes, words and emotions created by others, most of the time centuries ago. Marc began a lyrical career while already successful as a variety artist. He showed audacity in taking up the challenge of a lyrical career at a time when this art form was still considered a niche art.
Luc Plamondon, the Honorary President of our gala, repeatedly emphasized in his speech that without the performers who sang them, his texts would not have known the life they have.
The art of interpretation obviously results from talent and great discipline, but it is also the child of sensitivity.
Today, if I had to choose just one word to define my profession, on the piano or in song, I think I would gladly choose that of “performer”, whether called upon to sing my own works or those of others.