Don’t fret: Montreal guitarists close BU’s ‘New Music Festival’ with electric performance

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The 2017 edition of Brandon University’s New Music Festival will draw to a close on Tuesday evening with a final concert, featuring Instruments of Happiness.

A quartet of electric guitar players from Montreal – Jonathan Barriault, Simon Duschene and Marc-Olivier Lamontagne, led by founder and artistic director Tim Brady — Instruments of Happiness are stopping at Brandon University (BU) while on a cross-Canada tour. Brady says that guitar music is happy music.

“The guitar, and the music, is created to make us happy, sad, contemplative, ecstatic… Frankly, one is never indifferent in the face of music,” Brady said. “According to my favourite guitar manufacturer, the legendary Robert Godin, you can never be sad with a guitar in your hands. Absolutely, the guitar is an ‘instrument of happiness,’ hence the name for this ensemble.”

A guitarist for the past 46 years, Brady was first attracted to the instrument after watching The Beatles’ first North American appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, in 1964. The impact of that experience has driven his career. Now, along with his solo work, he has generated three versions of the Instruments of Happiness – along with the quartet, there is also an incarnation of 20 guitarists as well as one of 100 – to deliver his philosophy about music and music-making.

His love of the guitar’s voice and its many facets shine through this ensemble’s playing. Guitars may be the only instruments involved, but the aim of Brady and his cohorts is to create an emotional response – a happy one, he hopes – through distinctive, innovative, moving and well-honed performances.

“For almost the past 30 years, I have been exploring a new approach to the electric guitar, a vision as both a composer and a guitarist,” Brady said. “It is a vision which does not ignore my roots in jazz, blues, rock and noise, but a vision which seeks to extend the boundaries of the electric guitar, incorporating chamber music, electroacoustics, orchestral music, opera, and so on. Instruments of Happiness is, to a great extent, the next step in this evolution.”

Along with a work by Brady, the group’s programme includes compositions by René Lussier, Maxime McKinley and Emily Hall of Québec, Jordan Nobles of British Columbia, Scott Godin of Alberta, and Manitoba’s Gordon Fitzell. Several of the pieces were commissions, with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec.

“Follow the sonic drama, the musical journey, the interaction amongst the performers, the different harmonies, melodies and textures, jump on board, listen actively and enjoy the ride,” Brady said in a message for his Brandon audience.

The Instruments of Happiness concert with Tim Brady, Jonathan Barriault, Simon Duschene and Marc-Olivier Lamontagne will take place Tuesday, March 28 at 8 p.m., in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall, located in the Queen Elizabeth II Music Building, at Brandon University. Admission is free.

This year’s BU New Music Festival, dubbed “CANADA150: Mosaic of VISIONS,” ran Sunday through Tuesday under the auspices of the BU pro series. The final recitalist in the 2016–17 pro series season will be British pianist Murray McLachlan with a programme that will include Chopin’s 24 Preludes, Op. 28. That recital will take place at 8 p.m., on Tuesday, April 18, in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall. Tickets will be available at the door prior to the performance or in advance at the School of Music main office. They are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, students and BU alumni, and $10 for Conservatory students.

The School of Music gratefully acknowledges the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of Manitoba, through a Consolidated Arts Programming Grant through Culture, Heritage and Tourism.

Please note that seating in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall is limited and that programmes are subject to change. For up-to-date listing of pro series and student performances, please visit


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