The Story of Notes on Montreal

Beautiful ApartmentIn 1996, I needed to turn in a string quartet writing assignment, for an arranging course at McGill. It was a jazz course, but my tastes as a writer were skewing toward pop and folk artists like Jane Siberry and Leonard Cohen. So I wrote a piece with lyrics, and asked my friend Sienna Dahlen to sing it. I was so moved by the combination of strings with her powerful, limpid singing, that I later followed up with this piece, called “Pilgrimage” which featured a 13-piece string orchestra:

Haunted by this recording, I always meant to return to that format.  Over a decade later, I had a sudden inspiration that the great novels set in Montreal were a good lens through which to view the place, and that that perhaps the music I longed to make could take inspiration from that literature.

Across much of 2009-2010, I read a lot of the wonderful novels set in Montreal: Richler, Roy, and many others. You can find a reading list at my Indiegogo page here.

At the same time I began a series of long walks through the city, absorbing its feeling deeper. Then tunes began to emerge. The process was nonlinear. Coming in fits, tunes asked to be written, put away, and rewritten.  In about 2011 I began arranging these songs for strings. That took about a year as well. When I finally began to think of production, it was clear that now I needed to raise a lot of money. This Indiegogo campaign was the solution.  Sienna’s neighbour William Galen Brown, produced this first-rate pitch video for me.  I was astounded by its quality.

As I saw what Notes on Montreal might take, I began to get cold feet.  But meetings with singer Sienna Dahlen and producer Paul Johnston convinced me to go through with it.  Patient friends guided me through the fundraising process.  My friend Brook Bakay helped me to mount this video campaign on Youtube:


…and you can go here for the full gallery of our campaign videos.

From all over Canada, the support came in.  The money was raised, the ensemble was assembled and rehearsed, and the production process was settled on.  Studios were booked.

Producer, engineer, and wonder-worker, Paul Johnston was on board.  Good thing too!  I had no clue at the outset of this project just how much ingenuity and dedication it would take, from ALL involved.  Paul was an absolute inspiration.  Chad Linsley stepped up, taking my electronic scores and making the parts read like a dream.  He poured hours into this.

In February and March of 2013, we recorded Notes on Montreal, mostly at Studio 451 in Verdun Quebec.
In the meantime the CBC had also expressed an interest in recording the ensemble, as well as shooting the beautiful videos you see throughout this website.  Producer Frank Opolko, engineer Pierre Plante and videographer Ian Cameron made these recordings and videos possible.  I am so grateful for that opportunity.   A real dream come true for a guy who grew up watching music videos, and an excellent platform for such story-oriented music.

Then in the spring and summer came months of mixing, editing, and whatnot.

My dear old friend Mark Lang produced the lovely cover art that you see here:

NotesOnMontreal Cover Smaller

That about says it all I think.  Sitting in a table at Schwartz’s on St-Laurent.  Coffee, books, score paper, familiar characters outside, and a big ol’ smoked meat sammich.  Mmmmmmmmm.

Polly Wilson out in Vancouver added a massive contribution, taking care of the graphic design.  This was a laborious task, especially with the 16-page lyric booklet!  Her final product is truly beautiful.

The result is tremendously emotional for me.  I could never have imagined it turning out as it has.  Every member of the group put their thumbprint on the process.  Every member gave more than I could have imagined asking them.  What started as my attempt to capture a strong feeling about place, about who we are, turned into an opportunity for me to find out how many profoundly gifted and insightful artists are gathered here.  I sincerely thank them for making this CD.  I hope you will enjoy it.  I believe you will.

-Mike Rud, rue Jeanne-Mance, Mile End, Montreal, November, 2013

You can purchase Notes On Montreal right here


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