Disney classic is backed by a live orchestra at Place Des Arts
“You have to kind of take a leap and go experience it,” says Francis Choinière, president and co-founder of GFN Productions. On June 22, Choinière and his team will bring Disney’s classic Fantasia to life with a live orchestra at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Place des Arts. As a classically trained chorist and conductor, Choinière has branched out into producing orchestral concerts set to popular films.
Last year, the company sold out two nights of a live orchestral version of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring with over 80 musicians and 150 singers. It was GFN’s first production, and Choinière was in charge of preparing the choir. This time around, he has opted to direct the show offstage, with conductor Alain Trudel. Choinière says that although he prefers conducting over directing in the long run, the two serve a similar role. “Conductor is the role of a facilitator,” he says. “It’s to help find one thread of musical expression that unifies everyone.”
After the success of Lord of the Rings, Choinière sees the power in fusing cinema and symphony; the cinematic element tends to bring a new kind of crowd to orchestras.
“People who come to see Lord of the Rings are not necessarily people who come to see a symphony orchestra or have ever seen a symphony orchestra,” he says. “For them, it’s a new experience to see live musicians like that, so for us, that was really important.” As a student beginning his masters in Orchestral Conducting, Choinière says he sees a decline in the mainstream appeal of orchestras, even citing the Montreal Symphony Orchestra’s difficulty in filling their hall. “This visual aspect is an interesting way of keeping things fresh,” Choinière says. The addition of a live orchestra to GFN’s production of Fantasia is in the innovative spirit of the film’s 1940 release, when it was the first commercial film released in stereo sound, a novel way to immerse audiences.
Choinière has come to terms with the fact that symphony orchestras are competing for more casual music fans. “We’re much more visual now than we ever have been,” he says. Enjoying a symphony is an auditory experience, although the orchestra itself can be visually fascinating. Having a narrative to grip onto will surely ease some newer fans into the world of classical music.
GFN’s Fantasia will blend the 1940 classic with Fantasia 2000, the millennium reboot. “Fantasia is one of those films that helped people discover classical music,” says Choinière. “We’re touching two different generations.” The blend of live orchestral Bach and Tchaikovsky with Disney’s dreamlike animations is sure to be timeless.
Tickets for Fantasia at Place Des Arts can be purchased here.