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Rémy Bélanger de Beauport takes the cello to wild and lonely places

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport
Improvising Musicians of Ottawa-Outaouais
(IMOO) #151
House of Common, Ottawa
Sunday, December 18, 2016 – 7 p.m.

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

The cello is, in essence, a wooden resonating box with a neck and strings played by a bow or fingers. The tradition is to use it to produce beautiful, elevating sounds that unroll like ribbons and sigh like lovers.

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport played one bow against another in his solo cello set at IMOO Sunday ©Brett Delmage, 2016

Judging by his Ottawa concert on Sunday, Rémy Bélanger de Beauport does not follow this tradition.

The Quebec City cellist astonished and delighted his listeners at the last IMOO concert of 2016 with a short but very intense set of free improv. In the course of 15 minutes, he actively undercut everything they might expect from cello music, even in an improvised jazz context.

Melody was absent. The very first notes he played were jagged and raw, produced by very fast bowing, with some of his strings muted by a metal clip. de Beauport let his dissonant sounds echo around the room, soft and loud, sounding like buzzing bees and then attenuating down to barely audible vibrations.

His bow lightly rubbed the cello strings, and then pressed in again, creating at first atonal cries and then sounds like a foghorn and then high dissonant harmonics. He added occasional plucked notes to the bowing – and then increased the speed again before finally letting the last notes ring out into the space.

The audience asked for a second piece, and de Beauport obliged with harsh machine-like screeches, created by pressing a metal tuning fork within the strings. Then he threaded one bow through the strings and used a second bow to bow the first, creating a hard, crackling sound. As he sped up this two-bow performance, it almost sounded like not-quite-distinct conversation. He pressed his fingers along the strings as he continued bowing to continuously change the pitch, and then finally let the sounds fade out.

At times, de Beauport's music reminded me of busy urban streetscapes; at other times, of wind rushing down lonely streets – but it was consistently interesting and enjoyable to listen to, and further expanded my understanding of what could be done with a cello. The resonance of House of Common worked well in hearing every nuance of de Beauport's soundscapes. The intimate space allowed one to try to see how his techniques were altering the sound, although at times it was hard to see what technique was having what effect

The audience greeted the end of the second piece with extended applause.

de Beauport has an interesting background: he has been playing experimental music since his teenage years in Quebec, and worked as a singer, guitar, and cellist in many long and short term projects. He's the cellist in GGRIL, an improvisers' orchestra based in Rimouski, Québec. While living in Berlin in 2015-2016, he formed string trio THUYA and joined the Berlin Improvisers' Orchestra. He has recently released a flexidisc Angenehmer Duft on Kohlenstoff Records and a solo album D'éclisses on Ambiances Magnétiques. I'll be interested to see where he goes next.

That evening, de Beauport's set was followed by the 10th annual A Very Ayler Christmas concert. Watch for OttawaJazzScene.ca video from that show.

de Beauport is currently on a self-financed tour of Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, playing at jazz clubs, music centres, and book and record stores. He said that for almost all his concerts he will be playing a first solo set of improvised cello, and then collaborating with favourite local musicians for a second set of joint improvisations.

    – Alayne McGregor

Rémy Bélanger de Beauport's December/January tour:

  • December 21: Tranzac Club, Toronto
  • December 22: Array Space, Toronto
  • December 26: Librairie St-Jean-Baptiste, Quebec City
  • December 27: Le Knock-Out, Quebec City
  • December 29: Casa del Popolo, Montreal
  • January 3: 1313 Hollis Street, Halifax
  • January 4: Plan b Lounge, Moncton
  • January 10: Rimouski

View photos by Brett Delmage of this performance

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