Here are my choice Montreal arts and culture highlights for January 2019:
Many top touring acts are headlining various Montreal concert venues this month. Highlights include Panic! At The Disco (Jan. 12) with out frontman Brendon Urie, and American rapper A$AP Rocky’s Injured Generation Tour (Jan. 13), both headlining Place Bell; and Bryan Adams (Jan. 26) performs at the Bell Centre.
Other top touring acts headed our way include indie pop band The Lemon Twigs at the Corona Theatre (Jan. 12), Boston alt-rockers Guster at the Fairmount Theatre (Jan. 21), as well as Texas country music singer-songwriter Kacey Musgraves (Jan. 12) and the much-anticipated The Sheepdogs & The Damn Truth tour (Jan. 25), both at MTELUS.
Saskatoon classic-rock band The Sheepdogs famously became the first unsigned band to make the cover of Rolling Stone in 2011, and Montreal’s very own The Damn Truth have been making headlines with their recently-released black-and-white music video for their song Devilish Folk.
Shot over two years by photographer Mikael Theimer (one of the creative minds behind Portraits de/of Montréal), the video follows a group of “squeegee” kids in the streets of Montreal, including Jake Czornobaj who passed away in 2018. Pretty raw and powerful. The band also puts on a great live show.
Local shows of note: The Beth McKenna Quartet (Jan. 4) and Norman Marshall Villeneuve’s Jazz Message (Jan. 12) headline Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill which was ranked by no less than DownBeat magazine as one of the top jazz nightclubs in the world. Legendary 80-year-old jazz drummer Villeneuve used to perform at iconic Montreal jazz joint Rockhead’s Paradise back in the day. Villeneuve at Upstairs should also prove to be a memorable evening.
The recently-opened Le French Quarter jazz club in Old Montreal features weekly residencies by some terrific soul singers, notably Danny Blanco on Wednesdays, Shaharah on Thursdays, and Coco Thompson on Fridays.
Meanwhile, the downtown House of Jazz is home to the superb Taurey Butler Jazz Trio and Montreal’s Queen of Soul Michelle Sweeney.
The McGill Chamber Orchestra’s 79th season continues with Tchaikovsky and Tétreault at Salle Bourgie on Jan. 19, starring internationally-acclaimed 25-year-old Montreal cellist Stéphane Tétreault who was just 12 years old when he performed with the MCO for the first time. Tétreault is a huge talent with a big career ahead of him.
Over at the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, do not miss Mahler’s Fourth Symphony with guest American conductor David Robertson and featuring the “celestial” voice of soprano Hélène Guilmette in the last movement, “Das himmlische Leben” (The Heavenly Life), for three performances, on Jan. 16 and 17.
The Opéra de Montréal’s 2018-2019 season continues with the gay-themed Champion, composed by American jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard and Pulitzer-winning librettist Michael Cristofer. Described as “jazz meets opera in the boxing ring,” Champion tells the true story of one of the greatest boxers of the 20th century, Welterweight prizefighting champion Emile Griffith, a bisexual man who accidentally killed his opponent Benny Paret in the ring after Paret infuriated Griffith by touching his buttocks and making homophobic remarks at the weigh-in. Champion runs at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier on Jan. 26-29-31 and Feb. 2.
Experience Howard Shore’s Academy Award-winning score for The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring performed live to the epic motion picture which will be screened in HD, in English with French subtitles, and with 250 musicians from the MTL Film Music Orchestra/Choir at Salle Wilfred-Pelletier, for two performances on Jan. 11 and 12.
ART AND MUSEUMS
Artist manifestos are on the program this autumn at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, notably Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto featuring an extraordinary performance by actor Cate Blanchett playing 13 roles in a thirteen-channel immersive video installation that stands as a tribute to the tradition and literary beauty of artist manifestos. Manifesto has been mounted in more than a dozen cities around the world; its presentation in Montréal is only its second in North America, after the Park Avenue Armory in New York. The installation continues at the MAC until Jan. 20, 2019. The MAC then closes for an unspecified time for extensive renovations.
Over at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the exhibition Of Individuals and Places: Photographs from the Lazare Collection brings together some 100 photographs by major Canadian and international artists, from Montreal collector Jack Lazare’s prized photography collection. Photographers here include Edward Burtynsky, Astrid Kruse Jensen, Isaac Julien and the legendary and influential Julia Margaret Cameron. Of Individuals and Places runs at the MMFA to April 28.
The Never Apart Centre in Mile Ex launch their winter 2019 exhibitions on Jan. 17, featuring the work of photographer Michael Chambers, artists Kamissa Ma Koita and Rihab Essayh, filmmaker Tobi Aremu, videographer Rojin Shafiei, plus a retrospective chronicling the history of The Wiggle Festival which will celebrate its 25th anniversary with creator Michael Venus at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts later in 2019. Meanwhile, the Never Apart winter exhibitions run until April 6.
Kick-starting the New Year at the Centaur Theatre in Old Montreal is Torquil Campbell, front man for Montreal indie rock band Stars, who returns to his acting roots for the Quebec premiere of his acclaimed solo show True Crime, a labyrinthine journey to the dark side when he slips into the skin of notorious con man Christian Gerhartsreiter. True Crime runs from Jan. 8 to 27.
The 22nd edition of Centaur’s raucous Wildside Festival runs from Jan. 8 to 20, showcasing Centaur’s pick for Best of the Montreal Fringe Festival as well as new works by emerging and established artists from across Canada and beyond, as well as tributes to rock stars Kate Bush and Patti Smith.
Over at the Sylvan Adams Theatre at the Segal Centre for Performing Arts, the year kicks off with Corey Payette’s critically-acclaimed musical Children of God celebrating the resiliency and power of the Indigenous cultural spirit. In this musical, the children of an Oji-Cree family are taken away to a residential school in Northern Ontario. A haunting story of redemption for a mother who was never let past the school’s gate, and for her kids, who never knew she came. Children of God runs from Jan. 20 to Feb. 10.
Montreal’s award-winning Tableau D’Hôte Theatre will mark the 50th anniversary of the Sir George Williams Riot, the largest student uprising in Canadian history, with the much-anticipated world-premiere of the play Blackout which runs from Jan. 30 to Feb. 10, during Black History Month.
The play tells the story of students who occupied the computer centre on the 9th floor of the Hall Building of Sir George Williams University (which is now Concordia University) to protest the university’s mismanagement of a racism complaint lodged by West-Indian students against their biology professor in 1969. Riot police were called in when an agreement to end the occupation fell through, resulting in widespread damage, a mysterious fire, and more than 100 arrests.
Blackout re-examines the events that led to the occupation and protests. Adding to the authenticity and experience, the production is being mounted during the same dates and in the same building – in the state-of-the-art D.B. Clark Theatre – where the events took place 50 years ago.
Montreal’s top dance series Danse Danse continues their 2018-2019 season with the 22 dancers of the Brazilian ensemble Grupo Corpo, under the direction of choreographer Rodrigo Pederneiras, performing the pieces Bach – with a score by Marco Antonio Guimarães inspired by the works of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach – and Gira, the company’s latest work, which combine elements of Afro-Brazilian rituals with music by Brazilian fusion group Méta Méta. Grupo Corpo headlines Theatre Maisonneuve for four performances, Jan. 23 to 26.
Also at Danse Danse, internationally-acclaimed choregraphers Salva Sanchis and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker have reworked their 2005 piece A Love Supreme – set to music by jazz icon John Coltrane – into a quartet for male dancers, for five performances by the Rosas dance company at the Cinquieme Salle, Jan. 29 to Feb. 2.
One of the most hotly-anticipated shows of the dance season is the Canadian premiere of The Great Tamer by Dimitris Papaioannou, the Greek experimental stage director, choreographer and visual artist who became widely known in 2004 as the creator of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. The Great Tamer runs at L’Usine C for four performances, Jan. 23 to 27. This piece has it all – beauty, nudity and stunning visuals in a gripping investigation of life and death.
Academy Award-winning director and writer Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film ROMA – about a young domestic worker for a family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma in Mexico City – has been hailed by critics worldwide, and is shortlisted for the 2019 Oscar for Best Foreign language film.
This must-see film is screening daily at Montreal’s gorgeous 55-seat, state-of-the-art Cinéma Moderne (we are talking 4K resolution + Dolby Atmos immersive sound screenings) in Mile End until Feb. 27. Highly recommended that you book your tickets in advance online, and choose a screening with either English or French subtitles.
Cinéma Moderne (5150 St-Laurent Blvd. between Laurier and Fairmount) also features a well-stocked café-bar.
The Oscar nominations, meanwhile, will be announced on Jan. 22.
Renowned Montreal writers H. Nigel Thomas, Horace Goddard and Maguy Métellus co-host Lectures Logos Readings, the monthly bilingual reading series of poetry, fiction and spoken word at the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A. Hall at 2741 Notre Dame St. W.) in Little Burgundy, Jan. 14 from 7 to 9 pm. The guest readers this month are Ami Sands Brodoff, Victoria Papp, Stéphane Martelly, Vienney Carpentier and H. Nigel Thomas, followed by an open mic. The event is free, but a small donation is welcome.
Meanwhile, H. Nigel Thomas will also read from and discuss his novel Fate’s Instruments at Argo Bookstore on. Jan. 31 at 7 pm.
Paragraph Bookstore hosts the book launch of This Country of Mine, a translation by Elaine Kennedy of Didier Leclair’s novel, Ce pays qui est le mien, Jan. 20 at 2 pm, while Argo Bookstore hosts an evening of poetry with poets Virginia Konchan and John Emil Vincent on Jan. 24 at 7 pm.
Rhodes Scholar, Guggenhiem Fellow and National Newspaper Award winner Mark Abley launches his new memoir The Organist: Fugues, Fatherhood, and a Fragile Mind at the Atwater Library on Jan. 17 at 6 pm.
The star-studded 13th edition of Igloofest has booked DJs from around the globe over nine bright, fun-filled nights – each Thursday, Friday and Saturday from Jan. 17 through Feb.2.
The outdoor DJ festival kicks off on Jan. 17 with French musical duo Polo & Pan (DJ Set), then follows up with Diplo (US) on Jan. 18, and electronic innovator Four Tet (UK) on Jan. 19.
Bass House lovers won’t want to miss Chris Lake (UK)’s headline set on Jan. 24, Above & Beyond (UK) on Jan. 25, and Chris Liebing (DE) on Jan. 26.
RL Grime (US) and Baauer (US) kick off the final weekend on Jan. 31 with two full sets, followed by Gramatik (SI) on Feb. 1, and the legendary Maceo Plex (US) on Feb 2 – a must-attend night for techno lovers.
Igloofest is expected to draw more than 120,000 revellers to its annually-redesigned site at Jacques Cartier Pier in the Old Port.
Any tips for festivalgoers attending Igloofest?
Says festival programming coordinator Patrick Meloche, “Igloofest is all about good boots and socks. Everything else matters too, but if your body is warm and your feet are freezing or wet, you are done for.”
Do not miss ManSpread – the only All-Drag King Show in Montreal – at The Wiggle Room on Jan. 10 when host Uma Gahd and guests pay tribute to Wiggle Room “resident f*ckboi” Charli Deville who turns 30.
If you’re in the mood for some comedy in comfy nightclubs, stand-up comic Tranna Wintour hosts her ever-popular LGBTQ Stand Back comedy hour at Notre Dame Des Quilles on Jan. 22, and Toronto-based stand-up comedian Craig Fay headlines An Evening With Craig Fay at the historic Café Cléopatra on the lower Main on Jan. 30.
Happy New Year!