FIJM – AND ALL THAT JAZZ! Little did I know what I was signing up for when, in the middle of the Summer of 1985 I decided to check out Montreal for its annual Jazz Festival. I was going to be on a business trip there anyway meeting with representatives of various music and arts schools that were interested in becoming institutional members of NGCSA – the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.
I’d heard that FIJM – Festival International de Jazz de Montréal – was considered by the Guinness World of Records as being the planet’s most important jazz festival, so I thought I’d find out why, as well as learn first hand that there was more to music than the classical kind I’d been used to hearing at home since my childhood days.
What follows are extracts from my contemporaneous diary of a mixed-bag of events:
On a warm July the 20th Saturday night in 1985, I set off by train for Canada at 3.58 pm in a $30.00 sleeper from Newark, NJ. My accommodation was a ‘roomette’ with barely enough space to stretch out and relax. However, I repaired to the lounge next door and through the large window was able to gain a pretty nightscape of a brightly lit-up New York City across the Hudson River.
Over refreshments, I got into conversation with three women – all Montrealers – at the next table: their talk was all about sleepless and sick-full days and nights spent on their cruise to New York – nothing but fog, rain, storm, choppy seas. In short, they were aching to get back via terra firma to – in their words – the most beautiful city in North America!
6.00 am awakening on the 21st to be ready for customs/immigration at border around 8.00 am. Last glimpse of the fields of Vermont before crossing Lake Champlain – change in architecture, bottle-brush reeds (brightly purple) alongside the tracks.
Breakfast on omelette – anemic! Frontier town of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu; neat and deserted at that hour on Sunday morn. (For the record, St. Jean is 25 miles southeast of Montreal and is situated on the west bank of the Richelieu River at the northernmost navigable point of Lake Champlain. )
Then on to Gare Central – Montreal’s Central Station: shut shops, but change money at a cigarette store in the hotel opposite. Take Metro to interchange station – Lionel-Grande, then Bus 211 to Beaconsfield (see its historical background described later on) – my Indian friend Ben Sud of Teleglobe has his brother Vinay pick me up at noon.
Bus back after tasty vegetarian desi lunch; go on to opening concert at Expo Theatre – poor programming but soloists good. Reception (wine and snacks) at the nearby museum – overcrowded and hot! I speak to Alexander Schrelick (Secretary General of the international educational association I’m interviewing) about institutional membership in the National Guild.
Get to Lionel-Grande at 10.45 pm: call Ben about delay; 50-minute wait for Bus 211 – get to the house at 1 am!
Monday, July 22: With Ben, catch the commuter train to town – wrong pavilion for workshop; walk to the actual venue and arrive at 10 am. Leave 10.45 am for first-rate tour by bus; back at Hotel du Parc in time for lunch. Meet Madeleine Uggla on tour. Then the Swedish representative Goran joins me for for 10 minutes at my talk, followed by his associate Gunnar: he talks about the possibility of creating a World Band and Orchestra Association; Goran about visiting Stockholm as a follow-up.
“Mixed” afternoon concert: young violinist plays a terrific Sarasate, almost as good as I recall my old friend Itzhak Perlman back in the day performing that composer’s Zigeunerweisen (here with James Levine collaborating in this 10-minute rendition of the exhilarating work on YouTube.)
However, the Canadian program is too long and forces me to leave early by taxi for Place des Arts and on to Beaconsfield. An hour’s chat with Ben up to 12.30 am.
A word about Beaconsfield: a suburb on the Island of Montreal, Incorporated in 1910, it’s named in honor of Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield, P.M. of the United Kingdom and close confidant of Queen Victoria. The city’s historical roots go back as far as 1698. It is part of the Greater Montreal region locally referred to as the West Island.
Centennial Hall Community and
Cultural Centre in Beaconsfield
P.S. Beaconsfield is a prestigious residential community located on the north shore of Lac Saint-Louis, bordered on the west by Baie-D’Urfé, north by Kirkland and east by Pointe-Claire. Beaconsfield, in its current form, was developed as a cottage community by affluent Montreal residents. Over the decades, the city has transformed itself from summer homes, to year-round residents, and has flourished.
Tuesday, July 23: Goodbyes all around. In Metro, Desai of Teleglobe introduced by Ben. Lunch with them; then lay down C$65 for Quebec trip plus sleeper cost on Amtrak. Leave 2 pm and arrive 4.30 pm; then at 5.30 pm buffet supper. Evening concert a disaster – Rock!! Retire after arranging with Swedes to meet for breakfast at 8 am tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 24: Breakfast meet with Swedes and I discuss the potential for membership. Introduction to Maria Tania Siver (Uruguay) – a Bureau Member – may pan out. She’s coming to New York a week later on July 31. I’ll call her.
V.G. Receptour lunch at revolving tower (L’Astral”) – then Old Quebec tour by bus
(1.30 – 3.30 pm); dropped off at Terminus (departure 4.00 pm – arrival 6.45 pm Montreal). Metro to Gare Central for 7.30 pm departure. Meet interesting Argentinian in lounge – Eddy (Edith) Cingarle.
Tuesday, July 25: Uneventful journey thereafter; Lolita and her mother (visiting us from India) at station to meet me.
Afterword: 20 years later, Tata – the large Indian industrial corporation – bought Teleglobe, largely known as an international long-distance provider once part of the Bell Canada empire, and folded it into its own VSNL International Canada division.
References: My Diary; Wikipedia
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