Mark Haynes and Colin Power (back), Jane Chan and Isis Gira
Nestled into a comfortable downstairs space on Parc in Mile End, Résonance Café has become an important venue for Montreal’s creative community. Over the past two years, the space has hosted traditional and experimental jazz, prose and poetry readings, classical string quartets and pianists and, every Sunday, the Kalmunity Jazz Project. The principals behind the venue have been playing double duty, taking care of the day-to-day business of running a popular café, bar and restaurant, and booking high quality talent with Pay-What-You-Can accessibility seven nights a week.
In a move towards forging a clear distinction between the café and the event production arms of Résonance, a new not-for-profit organization has been established to focus on providing new opportunities for performers to showcase their work. Launched in the fall of 2014, les Sympathiques aims to not only produce and promote live performances at their homebase of Résonance as well as other venues, but also to add value to the community in other ways: by hosting workshops and training sessions for people who want to build their skillsets in the fields of performance, event production and artistic expression.
I recently sat down with les Sympathiques’s founding member and musician Isis Giraldo to find out more — naturally enough, over espressos at Résonance Café.
“The main thing for les Sympathiques is to be able to provide resources for artists and provide high caliber music to audiences,” Giraldo tells me.
She explains that establishing an independent, volunteer-run organization to focus on artists and their needs opens doors that a business like Résonance can’t access, such as arts funding and grant programs that could facilitate workshops and other activities on a not-for-profit basis.
“It’s a stepping stone to a lot of things that we want to do but haven’t been able to do with the café because it’s a business,” Giraldo says.
Les Sympathiques held their first series of workshops in October 2014, featuring composition seminars with noted local composers and musicians. “They were all so vastly different,” Giraldo says. “We talked about songwriting, about experimental use of computers with Adam Basanta, who does a lot of installation work, and then we had Eric Hove talking about spectralism, which is totally different — then Malcolm Sailor talking about composing for all types of different music like big band vs. chamber vs. choral. It was really cool and interesting.”
Giraldo stresses the goal of offering opportunities to performers from different scenes. Though Résonance may be thought of as primarily a jazz-oriented space, Giraldo notes that les Sympathiques intends to branch out and create opportunities for other genres and disciplines to mingle and experience each other’s work.
“One day we have Kalmunity and the next we’ll have Wabi-Sabi, which is experimental noise music. Then the next day we’ll have a classical concert, and the day after that a reading series. Everything is so different, and the scenes cross in one venue. People can come here and be surprised by what they see.”
On their website, les Sympathiques will also be posting a monthly curated guide to recommended shows and events happening at venues all over town, part of the group’s mandate to be a community-building support system for performers and people who want to be involved in the process of mounting and promoting shows.
“We want to bring in writers and musicians, web designers, people who want to do sound. We’re looking for members from all spheres: art lovers and people who love going to concerts and seeing weird experimental shows. It takes a community to do anything.” ■
Les Sympathiques presents a poetry reading and panel discussion feat. Kaie Kellough, Fabrice Koffy and Gillian Sze at Résonance (5175A Parc) tonight, Wednesday, April 1, 7:30 p.m., free
Anyone interested in becoming a member, or learning more about les Sympathiques’s activities, should visit their website.