Around 1975 , Joliette claimed to have a good number of active music organizations: a cultural centre that supported the city’s concert activity, several music schools, three youth orchestras, a summer music camp, a regional music competition, and various choirs. In other words, it was a musical setting waiting for something greater.
The opportunity for this “something greater” arose in 1977, when Father Fernand Lindsay, Cleric of St-Viateur and Director of the Cultural Centre, took a leap of faith and invited the Montreal Symphony Orchestra to give three concerts at the Cathédrale de Joliette. They were well received by the people of Joliette. The time had therefore come to take a step further. Recalling the European festivals he had visited some years earlier, Father Lindsay knew the time had come to make his dream come. He was joined by two friends who would be at the centre of the Festival’s development for years to come: Marcel Masse and René Charette.
An outstanding amphitheatre
The Festival had become a true engine for tourism and economic development for the entire Lanaudière region, but lacked one essential ingredient to completely fulfil its mission: an outdoor amphitheatre. “Its construction,” said René Charette, Board Chair, “represents a golden opportunity to expand our cultural market by creating a centre for excellence.”
The Festival thus came to a critical turning point in 1989 with this new amphitheatre, which seats 2,000 listeners under its roof and 6,000 more on the lawn. Many musicians and music critics who have experienced similar venues in the United States are unstinting in their praise for Lanaudière’s amphitheatre, particularly with respect to its impressive acoustics.
Architect Michel Gallienne and his colleagues, set designer Yvon Sanche and acoustician Lionel J. Lortie—all from Quebec City—created a gem, and everyone agrees the setting is magical. “Music has built a nest in Lanaudière, and this will lead to great things,” said Father Lindsay on the night the structure was inaugurated.
A story of success and loyalty
With the appointment of a co-artistic director, Louise Forand-Samson, and new general manager, François Bédard, the 1990s saw further developments built on past achievements. The quality of performances remained high and attendance increased, as did the Festival’s reputation and the enthusiasm it generated among critics and music lovers. The Festival de Lanaudière had carved an enviable and unique niche for itself as one of the top musical events.
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