Michel started his musical route like so many – piano lessons as a child. This lead to a stint in a summer music camp, where on a lazy, hazy, mid-August afternoon he sat at a piano in a practice room and plunked out the first notes of a brief lullaby, an echo of Porgy and Bess which had been his first experience at the opera a few months earlier. His piano teacher in Montréal encouraged him to continue writing, even assigning specific problems like sets of variations on a folkloric theme. Little did she know that she would lose her star pupil to the call of composition. Michel entered C.E.G.E.P. (post-highschool, pre-university) in music, and headed straight for the first composition teacher he could find, Michel Longtin, a product of the Québec art scene’s pre-occupation with avant-garde European, but a man of profound integrity and open-mindedness. By the time it was time to apply to university, the only way to study composition was to try and fit into that avant-garde mentality prevalant at Université de Montréal at the time. Not an easy task for a young romantic at heart. His first two years of university were a disaster, and Michel was eventually pushed to change learning establishments. He found a considerably more open atmosphere at Concordia.
During this time, he acted as musical director for Camerata Ars Nova, a chamber ensemble specializing in the performance of lyrical contemporary works for small orchestra (fewer than 15 musicians). This lead to five years as assistant to Semyon Vekshtein with Le Choeur Classique de Montréal at Le Festival International de Lanaudière, where he participated as rehearsal pianist, assistant conductor, and chorister. His interest in conducting, along with his passion for the works of Stephen Sondheim, lead to performances with various groups, including conducting the Canadian première of Into The Woods.
Through the intervening years, work on scores for various independent short films lead to a disillusionment with the medium of the filmscore, and in turn a return to formal studies. Under Alan Belkin, at Université de Montréal – a much-changed institution over the intervening years – he received a Master’s degree in composition for a thesis exploring the classification and use of polychords. He has since devoted the majority of his time to composition, the preparation of a text on polyharmony, and teaching both composition and orchestration.
Together with Alan Belkin, he is part of a small collective of Montreal composers who are trying, bit by bit, to change the attitudes of the local classical music scene and pull it away from the influence of the 1950’s European avant-garde mentality.
Upcoming performances include a clarinet sonata, a woodwind quintet, a mass for men’s voices, and works for voice and piano which will be receiving their premiere in Montréal and a repeat performance in Boston. Michel is still trying desperately to find the right libretto for an opera project.
Please visit dosblanc.ca for a full catalog of Michel's published works.