The Montreal Baroque Festival has begun, launched at City Hall with music by Les Voix Humaines played on viola da gambas. This is the head of one of the period instruments, part of a collection from Hart House in Toronto. Some people mistakenly think that gambas are the ancestors of the violin family, but they are really quite different. They have frets, are all played in a similar position to the cello and are bowed underhand (you can read about them here). Susie Napper, the creative force behind the festival, discovered this chest of viols; they had not been played in about 70 years. She arranged to have them refurbished and brought them to the festival. Les Voix Humaines, of which Susie is one of the founders, played at the launch and then later played a full concert. The sound was rich and glorious.
The theme of this year's festival is Death by Chocolate in honour of Henry Purcell. One theory of why is died is a surfeit of chocolate. So each concert is named for some sort of chocolate delicacy and a sample is served as you exit the concert. This is the seventh year of the festival and each year Susie's creativity in terms of theme and programming is extraordinary. And the lines between performers and audience are blurred by encounters in the festival cafe where all intermingle, chat and celebrate the joys of music.