A young Montreal music student’s ambition sets him apart
While some would say Francis Choinière was nurtured to have an impactful role in the world of classical music, there is no doubt that it’s the young Montrealer’s tenacity and ambition that set him apart.
Currently in his third year of studying music composition at McGill, Francis’s latest musical venture is turning heads around the city. With the help of his twin brother, Nicholas Choinière, and their childhood friend, Gabriel Felcarek-Hope, the three university students recently formed GFN Productions. This was the necessary step to attaining their true goal—presenting the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in concert. Essentially, the film would be played on a huge projector screen above a choir and orchestra, simultaneously performing the film’s score.
The creation of the company was necessary in order to purchase the rights to present the film, though it wasn’t an easy task.
“[GFN Productions] was five months in the making before attaining the rights to produce a concert,” said Francis. “Licensing this kind of material is extremely complex, and there are many rules and restrictions that have to be followed.”
With the dates of the show set for Jan. 11 and 12, the trio is looking to solidify all the necessary pieces in order to ensure a successful, impressionable first presentation of the Lord of the Rings film in concert in Montreal. Francis leads the group as the president and production manager, with his brother Nicholas acting as vice-president of operations and marketing director, and Felcarek-Hope as vice-president of finance and executive producer.
The Choinière brothers first met Felcarek-Hope at the school all three of them attended—Fine Arts Core Education (F.A.C.E.) School, an arts-focused primary and secondary school in downtown Montreal. It was the place that gave them their first real taste of classical music.
At this unique school, students have multiple vocal and instrumental music classes every week as part of their regular schedule. As a result, the extracurricular piano lessons that the three boys took were additional elements of musical influence, in combination with the weekly music lessons given by the school.
While Felcarek-Hope left the school after the eighth grade, the brothers remained at F.A.C.E. and graduated in 2014. Francis was the only one who chose to pursue music in post-secondary education. He studied music at Marianopolis and is now in his final year at McGill.
A standout musician from an early age, Francis’s creative talents didn’t go unnoticed. Marie-Ève Arseneau, an instrumental music teacher at F.A.C.E. with 12 years of experience, remembers him as a student whose mature demeanor greatly exceeded his age.
“He was always an excellent musician, whether it was playing the trumpet, the piano or singing,” said Arseneau. “Also, in the fifth grade he created a choir piece for an assignment in his English class, as well as other songs for various choirs in the sixth grade. He always had an old soul and an extraordinary amount of determination, paired with his discreet personality.”
Francis’ leadership qualities were so apparent in school that he was even given complete responsibility of his own class at times. “In grade 10 and 11, he would rehearse the band when I was absent or could not have a substitute teacher replacement come in,” said Carol Kay, a retired instrumental music teacher at F.A.C.E. who taught at the school for more than 30 years.
In 2015, Francis and fellow F.A.C.E student Elie Boissinot founded L’Orchestre et Philharmonique des Melomanes (OPCM) to allow former high school music students to exercise their passion, even if they chose to pursue studies outside of music in CEGEP and university.
”We knew a lot of the graduate students who had done music for almost 11 years, and who all of a sudden had to stop just because they decided to study something else for CEGEP,” Francis said in an interview with the CBC.
Since 2015, OPCM has put on seven shows and taken part in several large-scale concerts, including Harry Potter in Concert at Place des Arts, and Game of Thrones Live Concert Experience at the Bell Centre.
In order to prepare for the three-hour-and-20-minute-long Lord of the Rings show, Francis is rehearsing with the choir for the elaborate performance, while Nicholas and Felcarek-Hope are handling the marketing and logistical preparations.
The concert will include a total of 250 people on stage—100 choir members from the MTL Film Music Orchestra, an additional 50 child choir singers from the Petits chanteurs du Mont-Royal and 100 instrumental musicians from the MTL Film Music Choir.
While the momentum for the Lord of the Rings concert is quickly building, the OPCM has its sights set on next month, as they have a show on Dec. 9 performing Mozart’s “Requiem” at the Paroisse de l’Immaculée-Conception. The Facebook event page for the Lord of the Rings concert currently lists 14,000 individuals as “interested,” though Francis isn’t surprised by the high level of interest.
“There is an increasing audience for these kinds of performances,” said Francis. “People are interested in hearing a live orchestra accompanied with film. It is essentially modernizing the classical concert.”
Given that GFN Productions has high hopes to produce more shows in various cities in the future, Francis’s dreams are quickly becoming more clear and progressively real.
“I aspire to be an orchestral conductor,” said Francis. “I do not, however, want to limit myself only to the classical music sphere as there is much more to be offered at this point in time. I see myself conducting classical music, as well as large-scale film music concerts,” he said.
Tickets to the OPCM’s next concerts are available below:
The next OPCM concert, Mozart’s Requiem, is on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at Paroisse de l’Immaculée-Conception.
The upcoming GFN Production concert, Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, is on Jan. 11 and 12 at 7:30 p.m., at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier (in Place des Arts).