frenchpony (frenchpony) wrote,

  • Music:

Canada Picspam Part Deux

There is an institution in Quebec -- I don't know if it exists in any other Canadian provinces, but they're all up and down Quebec -- called the Economuseum. These are workshops where traditional crafts are practiced, and the Canadian government gives them money to set up a little museum or showroom for visitors as well. The idea is to subsidize traditional crafts and let people see them being done.

The Economuseum in Montreal is a luthier, a violin-maker. As you can well imagine, I was very excited about going to see this place. It's only open for three hours in the afternoons, but I was totally there.

The luthier is a Hungarian immigrant who has Frenchified his name, and he and his daughter and a couple of other craftsmen run the shop. Here it is, from the street:

The ground floor is small, and consists of the workshop, a room where the luthier chats with customers, and the general reception area, which has all sorts of interesting instruments hung up on the wall. Most of them are string instruments, including a hurdy-gurdy, a lyre-guitar (a guitar shaped like a lyre), and a double guitar (which kind of looks like the guitar version of conjoined twins). There are also a couple of non-string instruments, including two mbiras. Upstairs, one of the craftsmen will tell you in great detail how a violin is made, and then accompany you and chat as you walk around the display cases of interesting string instruments.

This is a seventeenth-century pochette, or pocket violin. It's small enough that a dancing master could keep it in his pocket and pull it out when he needed to make instant music for a dance lesson in the days before recordings.

This is a collection of older string instruments including a 3,000-year-old erhu, a rabab, a rebec, and a viola d'amore.

This is a lute, descended from the Arabic 'oud.

This is a collection of antique violins. The craftsman told me about an interesting feature of antique instruments, especially violins: it's very hard to find a really old-fashioned Stradivarius, because many of them were altered in the nineteenth century. That was when people started liking the big fat sound that comes from bigger, stronger instruments, so they just altered and enlarged already extant instruments to make that sound. As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of skill, and the showroom has a cello that's angled so you can see the places where wood was glued in to enlarge the instrument, if you know where to look. All of the violins in this case are pre-nineteenth-century models that were enlarged.

This is the result of a rather unfortunate mating between a violin and a bugle. The craftsman assured me that it doesn't have much of a voice.

Some violins are very weird-looking. And some were just built to look like guitars.

This is a case full of fully functional miniature string instruments. Or, in other words, this is the smallest string ensemble in the world, ready to play an arrangement of "My Heart Bleeds For You."

And this . . . well, even the craftsman wasn't quite sure what this is. It's half zither, half harp, and half guitar. And yes, that does come out to three halves.

Well, enough of the string instruments. I thank you for your indulgence. Finally, a few random photos of Montreal. Chinatown features this stage. I imagine that cultural performances are held here when it's not snowed in.

Every now and then, you run into random statues on the street. Mothers with babies seems to be a popular theme.

There was also this protest. It involved something about Sri Lanka, but I've forgotten exactly what. That's what happens when you protest in French. Anyway, it was large and dramatic.

The final fun thing I did in Montreal was to go to a piano recital at the Place-des-Artes by a very good pianist named Marc-Andre Hamelin. He played Haydn and Chopin, two of his own compositions, and two pieces by twentieth-century composers I'd never heard of. You can read a review of the concert here. I thought it was brilliant. Hamelin's technique is flawless, which is to be expected from a concert pianist, but he also has a wonderfully snarky sense of humor, and it really came through in his playing.
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