What a delight to visit Christina Petrowska Quilico to go over More Rivers, a new suite of solo piano compositions ...
There’s a new collaboration I’m very excited about: composing music for the renowned Canadian pianist, David Jalbert! When David and I started discussing the foundation of our collaboration, he spoke about his spiritual connection to the St. Lawrence River. Having been born and raised in Rimouski, Quebec, Le Fleuve Saint-Laurent holds a special place in David’s heart and in the hearts of everyone who journeys along its shores.
In preparation for composing this piece for David, Lisa and I believed it would be fitting to travel the length of the river to absorb its significance firsthand. We began our journey in Kingston, Ontario, where the river’s headwaters flow from Lake Ontario. Kingston is a beautiful and historic city. During our trip, we embarked on a cruise to visit the Thousand Islands. This stretch of the river is quite narrow, especially with the numerous islands dotting its expanse, many adorned with opulent homes. Navigating through this part of the river led me to contemplate nature and land ownership—should a unique and pristine area of the world remain predominantly in the possession of a wealthy few?
Our next destination was Cornwall, Ontario. There, we embarked on an immensely long hike alongside the river during a beautiful sunny afternoon. The river displayed a gentle current at this point, creating a calm and serene atmosphere.
Next, we headed to Montreal, a place I hadn’t visited since 2011. I’ve always been captivated by the vibrancy and energy of Montreal, but being there on a summer Sunday is a particular experience due to the massive crowds gathered along the waterfront in the historic part of the city. The area featured an amusement park and a Cirque du Soleil show right by the water. To be honest, it felt a bit cheesy and reminiscent of Disneyland!
Despite the fact that the river should have been the main attraction, the vast majority of people seemed disengaged from it, as they were absorbed by their cellphones or merely present for the superficial spectacle. Meanwhile, the river in Montreal started to exhibit signs of wildness. The currents swirled around the various islands, and the ferries crossing the waterway employed ingenious techniques to navigate the challenging currents. It was quite a natural spectacle.
Leaving Montreal, our next destination was Quebec City, another historical gem on our planet. In this city, you can truly sense the river’s influence on past generations, especially given its strategic placement within the urban layout.
Continuing our journey to the northeast, we embarked on a special train trip to a quaint town called La Malbaie. The train route hugged the north shore of the river, offering truly magical views. Often overshadowed, however, were the vistas of rock faces, streams, and trees on the opposite side. The untouched wilderness was absolutely sublime.
Eventually, we made our way to Rimouski, a charming small city in the Bas-St.-Laurent region of Quebec. While there, we attended concerts at the wonderful Îles du Bic chamber music festival, the same event where David will premiere the piece I’m composing for him next summer. Lisa and I enjoyed a leisurely, scenic hike along the waterfront, where the vegetation showcased remarkable diversity and bird life was abundant.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have the opportunity to continue our journey further northeast from Rimouski. Someday, I hope to return and explore more of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, an expansive semi-enclosed sea that gradually transitions into the Atlantic Ocean. For the time being, I eagerly anticipate engaging in more conversations with David and others to learn about the significance of the Fleuve Saint-Laurent to them. This will serve as the perfect way to conclude my preparations before I commence composing the piece for David. Please let me know if you have any memories of the river you’d like to share.