RiseMTL: Lyric Theatre sings messages of hope in ‘Beautiful City’ musical collab


The Lyric Theatre Singers present “Beautiful City”

#RiseMTL is Montreal Theatre Hub’s new journalistic series featuring local artists and companies who are spearheading creative community initiatives for artistic and social activity in response to COVID-19.

In trying times for Montrealers, rainbows of harmonies carry tuneful messages of hope in The Lyric Theatre Singers’ latest musical collaboration.

Spearheading our beautiful city’s beloved vocal ensemble is Bob Bachelor, Founder and Artistic Director of the community theatre troupe since 1990. His distinguished work in choral direction has lent Lyric its characteristic qualities of professional rigour, machinal precision, and refined artistry (which oft results in an “eargasmic” musical experience, as I fondly refer it to.)

The company’s annual summer and holiday shows are a highlight on the local entertainment circuit, and the postponement of their June 2020 Broadway revue due to COVID-19 grievously breaks my personal yearly tradition of attending every one of their productions.

Bachelor’s spirits have not been doused, however, and has instead set his own conducting baton aflame to contribute in keeping the fire of Montreal theatre alit.

“In mid-March, I noticed many vocal ensembles posting virtual projects on Facebook and another social media sites,” he begins. “I immediately thought that this could be something the Lyric Theatre Singers could do, but how? Especially with no budget!”

Rallying his resources to bring a digital project to fruition, he here gathers the Lyric family to do what they do best: original choral renditions of Broadway favourites. Decorous song of choice for this special collaboration? “Beautiful City” from the musical Godspell.

Sheet music in hand, thus began the process of adapting the piece to the virtual medium. “One of our Singers, Alessandro Mercurio volunteered his time as videographer and Rob Denton, a sound man who has already done great work with Lyric volunteered his time to put the audio tracks together. Having a very strong artistic team, I felt inspired and confident that we could do something of quality and of value.”

The video production took about 3 ½ weeks from start to finish. “It would take almost as long to explain the process,” muses Bachelor.

The rewards of the meticulous efforts of synchronizing 40+ voices to Chad Linsley’s piano instrumentals, however, are being reaped. “It was monumental to organize, but it was extremely exciting and satisfying to see the puzzle come together. Consider that all of this work got done with everyone using their own devices at home and we were NEVER in the same room together. I have learned so much and I am thrilled with the final result.”

Lyric Theatre Founder and Artistic Director Bob Bachelor

Bachelor considers the significance of the initiative – to himself, to Lyric, and to the greater community – in the context of the current crisis.

“There are so many things I could say. I felt extremely concerned about finding a way to keep the Singers connected. The lack of social and physical connection is so foreign to us, especially when it has been imposed. So I wanted to have a place where the Singers could come together, on a regular basis to feel connected and keep creating. Our virtual rehearsals are not mandatory, but we are getting between 75 to 80% of our Singers at each meeting. That tells me that these get-togethers are serving a very useful and important purpose beyond the music.”

From his perspective, “I wanted to find a way to make a contribution, so using my musical skills seemed a good way for me to do that.”

As for the company’s offering to the greater community, the project is prompting audiences to donate to Le Depot as they distribute emergency food baskets to families in financial need at this time. 

“Because Lyric Theatre already has a long and successful relationship with Le Depot, I wanted to combine what we do well with their need to raise funds for their organization. No one should go hungry in our city or our country. EVER. Even in these difficult times, we are blessed with over-abundance, and in this pandemic, the need to give is even greater. I hope our work can contribute to that need.”

Bob Bachelor, centre, and the Lyric Theatre Singers in Candlelight Christmas 2019
(Photo: Tam Photography)

On the landing impact and inspiration of the initiative as we look to the future and rebuilding Montreal communities – theatre and otherwise – , Bachelor reflects:

“When I first saw the final version of ‘Beautiful City’, I was blown away by how visually beautiful it was to watch. I saw a group of incredibly diverse people from different backgrounds socially, of many different ages, different ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations; a group, where people hold extremely diverse opinions about all sorts of subjects and yet, who are able to come together to produce something of value. It is not always easy, but it is possible to do.

“I know that I can often be naive and even ‘pollyanna-ish’, but wouldn’t it be nice if going forward in our new world, we could really create a beautiful city of man where people truly respect and celebrate differences? As crazy as it might seem, that would be my wish for our future. Who knows, maybe in some real way, this ‘Beautiful City’ video can contribute to that possibility.”

Watch “Beautiful City” below and stay tuned for more video projects from The Lyric Theatre Singers on their Facebook page.

Producer & Musical director: Bob Bachelor
Featuring The Lyric Theatre Singers
Piano: Chad Linsley
Director & Editor: Alessandro Mercurio
Sound design: Rob Denton
Assistant Musical Director: Martin Kaller

#RiseMTL by Montreal Theatre Hub
Do you know of someone who has started a creative community initiative in response to COVID-19? We’d love to feature them as part of our #RiseMTL series. E-mail us at info@montrealtheatrehub.com

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