The Festival in the words of Elisabeth Pion

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Marketing team - Festival de Lanaudière

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Taking advantage of its position as an international hub for classical music in Canada, since 2022 the Festival de Lanaudière has offered a mentoring program that enables six young Canadian classical musicians to create privileged professional links with international musicians and cultural partners. Découvrez-en plus sur l’expérience de l’une de mentorés de l’édition 2023 : Elisabeth Pion.

 

A curious and innovative artist, pianist Élisabeth Pion stands out as a soloist, chamber musician and collaborator on the Canadian and international cultural scene. She made her solo recital debut at Wigmore Hall in 2021, her BBC Radio 3 debut in 2019, and presented a concert at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall in 2022.

Élisabeth obtained the Artist Diploma and Artist Masters with highest honors from the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, where she studied with Ronan O'Hora. 

 

Elisabeth Pion

Tell us a bit about your musical background, about how you got started, up to the present day. We are interested to know what led you to music and to your instrument.

My family loves music. I am the first among our family members to have chosen the path of a professional musician as a career/vocation, but music has been with the Pions and the Labossières/Barrés for generations. On my father’s side, there were many fiddlers who played reels for dance nights—my father grew up in that atmosphere. My mother took ten years of classical piano lessons, and her family was always eager to attend concerts; they are a passionate family about culture in all its forms. As far back as I can remember, there was always music at home. Jazz, disco, funk, pop, classical, blues, rock … the primary love was of good music, for its quality, regardless of the idiom. We also had an upright piano at home when I was little, and my mother gave me my first piano lessons. Then, at five years old, I started lessons with Francine Lacroix in Beloeil. After that, my brothers, my sister and I formed the Quatuor Pion—I was seven at the time, if memory serves.

 

I always wanted to play the piano: other instruments did not interest me as much. I did try others, but the piano is truly my main “partner.” It’s a good fit. I like the instrument’s ergonomics: you can sit calmly and work, without having to build finger calluses. 🤪 In the past year, however, I’ve strayed a bit for the sake of a small 12-string Celtic harp that I play in my spare time.

 

My choice to become a musician came gradually, by a process of elimination. I had lots of interests and wanted to try them all, to see what resonated with me. I was almost 19 when I decided to dedicate my life to music. I continue to nurture many interests that might have eventually become professions, and in my own way are contained in a life of music (literature, philosophy, psychology, mathematics, aesthetics, health, an understanding of the body, etc.). In terms of my academic background, I studied in Montreal with Suzanne Goyette and André Laplante, then, five years ago, I left to study with Ronan O’Hora at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London, where I completed an Artist Masters, then an Artist Diploma, then finally a Junior Fellowship. I am now wholly a “freelancer” since last July.

 

This summer’s program enabled you to meet with international actors within the cultural sector. What was your takeaway from these encounters? 

They were enriching on many levels. I believe that it was a very good thing to realize that there are many ways to live a life in music, and to let that realization sink in over the days. It was interesting to come across so many different life paths with such divergent approaches, but one thing they all have in common is quality and discipline of craftsmanship. What I retain and what motivates me above all is the knowledge that I am always working at the highest standard possible, considering the knowledge I have at this moment in my life.

 

The plurality of narratives we heard gave me hope about our own careers: they demonstrated that it is possible to find one’s place in the profession, through various routes, according to various timelines. In other words, one can have an atypical career path. While certainly a winding road, it’s up to us to ensure that there is a road at all, to keep putting one foot in front of the other and to find solutions on a continual basis, as we move forward.

 

The discussions this summer were incentives to live my life as an artist, with imagination and authenticity, to find strategies for making our own values and approach central to our artistic practice, and then to weave a bigger picture around these pillars: to continue being flexible and open about the ways of living a life in music, about the contracts we take on (a healthy balance between furthering our distinctive skills, ones that are more or less “achieved,” and challenges that expand us artistically), remaining firm and finding a genuine rootedness at the core of the approach we have chosen.

 

Tell us about a highlight th/or about a concert that stood out for you during your week with the Festival de Lanaudière.

Grands ballets Canadiens

Unfortunately, I only got to stay at the Festival for a few days, owing to a concert engagement to which I had committed, and therefore did not get to see/hear all the concerts, but I must say the performance featuring Les Grands Ballets Canadiens was absolutely spectacular. I am always inspired when I come into contact with other forms of art and expression. The work of the human body is something I find truly fascinating, and dance is such an organic art—for me it is the expression of music incarnate.

 

The encounter with Ziya Tabassian also was very inspiring. His art absolutely exudes freedom, but mixed with iron discipline. It’s a combination I aspire to, and one I want to embody both in my playing and with the projects I decide to get involved in. He inspired me to create, to boldly dive into a kind of music-making that, while intuitive, is also rooted in knowledge and understanding of several thousand-year-old traditions. It’s like a mighty tree!

 

Our discussions with Xavier and Renaud were also truly inspiring and concretely helpful. Both are actors in the cultural sector who are true adepts at “connecting the dots,” and at opening new avenues of reflection in the minds of young artists.

 

Why would you recommend it to young performers to take part in a mentorship program such as the Festival de Lanaudière’s?

It’s a great opportunity to stop for a moment and take the pulse of your artistic life: to observe what you have accomplished, see the road that lies head, what you want to achieve, and what next steps you can take to steer yourself purposefully in the desired direction. Many new ideas can also emerge from discussions organized by the Festival, and from attending so many varied performances of such a high calibre.

 

It’s a wonderful framework through which to examine yourself and connect with other young artists who are facing similar challenges. It’s also an opportunity to meet many creative artisans who work both centre-stage and offstage, and about being given space to ask them specific questions about their careers, a unique opportunity to learn more about the inner workings of the profession, and also to quell certain doubts and misgivings about one’s own trajectory and one’s own choices.

 

À VENIR POUR ELISABETH PION

    • In December 2023, Élisabeth visited in Riga (Latvia) to work with the Garūta Association—in preparation for two performances she will give with the Orchestre Métropolitain from January 19 to 21, 2024; INFOS ;
    • Elisabeth is preparing a recital for the Imogen Cooper Trust, which she will give on March 6, 2024;
    • Her second CD with ATMA Classique, to be released in June 2024 features Montgeroult’s Concerto no.* and Mozart’sth Concerto
    • Amid all her engagements, Élisabeth continues to compose and to prepare for various international competitions. WEBSITE.

The Festival de Lanaudière’s mentorship project is made possible thanks to generous support from the Fondation Père-Lindsay and the Jacques Martin Fund.

The mentees stayed at l’Appartement – coliving of Libre Entrepreneur.

Photo credits : Sue Parkhill and Agence BigJaw