The Notre Dame Cathedral was heavily damaged by a fire recently, but there are reports that they were able to save most of the artifacts, including the gigantic pipe organ with 8000 pipes that resides within the hallowed halls of the iconic landmark in Paris, France. Before this fire, I had nary a thought about pipe organs. They were background music, gothic and ancient, only noticeable (for me at least) when I watched classic horror. Who knew there was a Canadian International Organ Competition, and that it has been occurring for 11 years now? Who knew that bright young musicians come from far and wide to compete at Montreal’s Notre Dame Basilica? Stacey Tenenbaum, that’s who.
The award-winning director brings us Pipe Dreams, a documentary about young competitors and their preparation in the quest for a $100,000 top prize. Tenenbaum’s film takes us right into the fray, introducing the audience to Alecc Chriss III, Thomas Gaynor, Yuan Shen, Sebastian Heindl, and Nick Capozzoli. These musicians tell of their practice methods, their hopes, and anxieties of being a part of the international competition. We don’t hear too much from their families or friends, just their coaches and how they cope with the stress of striving to be the best. Alecc, who mourns the passing of his mother, realizes that his African-American heritage is a rarity in such arenas. Yuan, young Chinese woman whose father was once disappointed that she was born a girl, now counts her dad as her biggest fan. Then there is the charmingly nervous New Zealander, Thomas, who is wary of his competitors.
They all show their immense talent and tenacity in this musical Olympics, and you just might find yourself getting more involved than you think. My only wish was perhaps a little history behind this “king of instruments” that has stood the test of time. Other than that, you’ll enjoy the bright cinematography, the earnest nature of these talented people and the triumph at the competition itself.
FYI, if the documentary piqued your interest in the pipe organ, the competitors from the film will be at St. Paul’s Bloor St. Church on May 3, 2019 for a ticketed event. You can find details here.
Sunday, Apr 28, 3:15 PM, Scotiabank Theatre 4
Tuesday, Apr 30, 9:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Friday, May 3, 10:00 AM, Isabel Bader Theatre