Thursday, 19 March 2009

When One Person Makes a Difference: The Death of Father Fernand Lindsay and the Need for Classical Music on the Radio

Father Fernand Lindsay died on Tuesday, aged 79. Founder of a music camp where dozens of world-class musicians and thousands of enthusiastic music-lovers passed summers in their youth, he also was the motor behind a world class music festival based in a small town down river from Montreal. What he created is an inspiration to anyone who wonders what one person can do.

The idea came to him in 1963 when he finished off a year of study in Europe by attending 30 concerts in 25 days. Some of them were at festivals held in relatively small towns, and he wondered if something similar might be organized in Joliette, pop. 30,000, where he was teaching, The Festival de Lanaudière officially began in 1968, and now is one of largest and most successful musical festivals in Canada.

As the tributes roll in to Father Lindsay, it is instructive to remember a story he told La Scena Musicale a few years ago. He grew up in Trois-Pistoles, a village much smaller than Joliette, but when his uncle Georges visited, the family listened to concerts broadcast live from New York on WQXR. "That's where I discovered Beethoven's Seventh Symphony," the magazine quoted him as saying. "It was the first important work I ever heard."

Hear that, you programmers at the CBC and Radio-Canada? There is an audience for serious music in even the most remote corners of the country that deserves to be served.

P.S. on a personal note: Elin went to Lindsay’s music camp a couple of summers, and loved it. She also had a life-changing experience at the festival when she attended a concert given by viola da gamba virtuoso Jordi Savall in the early 1990s. It was a coup de foudre, as they say in French, and she decided put aside the violin even though she was two years into a B.Mus at McGill in that instrument. Since then she’s been making a career with the gamba: her second doctoral recital is scheduled for May 19 at the Université de Montréal and a CD that she recorded with Les voix humaines of music by Henry Purcell should be out soon.

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