FILMharmonic Orchestra is on a roll
The 45-person orchestra delights young and old in Bugs Bunny at the Symphony
By Byron Toben
January 24, 2024
There is nothing new in small musical groups accompanying silent film exhibitions, as the Cinémathèque Quebecoise has often done. However, the made-in-Montreal, large symphonic orchestra, FILMharmonic, has carried it to a new level.
On January 14, I attended their amazing production of Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, where they blended classic animated shorts from the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies era with the powerful strains of, I estimated, a 45-person orchestra. The antics of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd and others delighted the 3,000 or so attendees at the Sir Wilfred Pelletier Hall at the Place des Arts.
Lots of explosions, gravity-defying treading from great heights, and applause, not only from the young newbies in the crowd but also from older adults reliving their youth. Conductor George Dougherty vigorously waved his baton, blending music from such as Liszt, Wagner and Rossini.
There is nothing new in small musical groups accompanying silent film exhibitions… However, the made-in-Montreal, large symphonic orchestra, FILMharmonic, has carried it to a new level.
The unique FILMharmonic orchestra was founded by McGill music grad Denis Chabot, who went on to get a Master in Music at London’s Guildhall School of Music, followed by work with orchestras in Barcelona and Finland as well as double bass playing with both the Orchestra Classique de Montréal and the orchestra des Grands Ballets Canadiens. He is also the co-artistic director of the FILMharmonic, whose other accomplished co-artistic director and principal conductor is François Choinière.
The FILMharmonic has performed other dynamic pieces, such as Star Wars, and we look forward to January 28 when they present the increasingly popular Uta Lemper in From Berlin to Broadway at the Place des Arts.
Feature image: courtesy of FILMharmonic Orchestra
Byron Toben, a past president of The Montreal Press Club, has been WestmountMag.ca’s theatre reviewer since July 2015. Previously, he wrote for since terminated websites Rover Arts and Charlebois Post, print weekly The Downtowner, and print monthly The Senior Times. He also is an expert consultant on U.S. work permits for Canadians.