Montréal Celebrates Black History Month 2018
February 2018 marks the 27th anniversary of Black History Month in Montréal, and this year’s edition features a full slate of film screenings, art exhibitions, concerts and other special events, notably an exhibition and musical tribute to Prince. This year’s theme is “Black history is made every day!” (“Notre histoire s’écrit chaque jour!”).
Here are some choice picks for BHM 2018:
The MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE Festival presents one of Africa’s most dazzling guitarists, Mali’s Vieux Farka Touré, son of the great Ali Farka Touré and a music legend in his own right. Vieux headlines Club Soda on February 22. For tickets, visit montrealenlumiere.com.
The MONTRÉAL EN LUMIÈRE Festival also presents soprano Marie-Josée Lord who will perform from her new album Femmes, classic arias by Puccini, Verdi, Massenet and others, accompanied by the Orchestre symphonique de Laval at Theatre Maisonneuve on February 27. For tickets, visit montrealenlumiere.com.
Marie-Josée Lord will also perform classical music at a scaled-down February 10 concert at Victoria Hall in Westmount, promoted by legendary impresario and poet Doudou Boicel, who will also read some of his poetry. For tickets, visit westmount.org.
Eddie & Quincy Bullen
Another musical highlight is the Eddie and Quincy Bullen Father and Son Dueling Pianos show at Oscar Peterson Concert Hall on February 3. The renowned musicians (father Eddie has produced over 150 albums and worked with everybody from Dee Dee Bridgewater to Byron Lee) will perform everything from classical numbers to reggae. For tickets, visit myscena.org.
Canada’s oldest Black theatre company, Montreal’s Black Theatre Workshop, presents its 32nd annual Vision Celebration Gala on January 27, honouring outstanding Black artists who have contributed to the development of the performing arts in Canada. This year, BTW’s prestigious Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Achievement Award will be presented to renowned entertainer Don Jordan. There will be a champagne cocktail followed by a four-course dinner with wine, plus with special appearances by jazz legend Ranee Lee and soul diva Kim Richardson, at the downtown OMNI Hotel. All proceeds from the Vision Celebration Gala go toward BTW’s 47th season. For tickets, visit blacktheatreworkshop.ca.
Black Theatre Workshop has two productions running during Black History Month:
South African literary legend Athol Fugard’s play “Master Harold”...and the boys is set in in 1950 apartheid-era South Africa and tells the story of 17-year-old Harold who demands deference from his two Black servants. The play was initially banned in South Africa but has since become an enduring, modern classic that continues to speak to inequality and injustice. Master Harold runs to February 11 at the Segal Theatre. For tickets, visit segalcentre.org.
Then BTW and Espace Libre co-present Black Boys, the acclaimed production about the lives of three gay Black men seeking a deeper understanding of themselves, of each other, and of how they encounter the world. Black Boys runs at Theatre Espace Libre from February 13 to 17. For tickets, visit blacktheatreworkshop.ca.
In addition to Black Boys, LGBTQ audiences will enjoy the 10th annual edition of the Massmadi Montréal Afro-Caribbean LGBTQ Film and Art Festival, which runs from February 20 to March 3. For festival programming, visit massimadi.ca.
Afrique en cirque with Kalabante
The enormously popular Afrique en cirque with Kalabante – a made-in-Quebec show featuring live musicians and acrobats from a circus school in Conakry, the capital of Guinea – return to headline the Olympia Theatre on February 11. For tickets, visit festivalnuitsdafrique.com.
In addition to the BTW Vision Gala, Montreal will also celebrate and honour the Black community at the second annual Gala Dynastie being held at the TOHU on February 3. Popular Quebec entertainer Gardy Fury will host, and awards will be given in 20 categories, such as Breakthrough Television Personality of the Year and World-Music Artist or Group of the Year. Performers include LA-based Montrealers and hip hop neo-ragtime revivalists Parlor Social (a.k.a. Dessy Di Lauro and Ric’key Pageot), the Jireh Gospel Choir, as well as the power-vocal soul trio of Sylvie Desgroseilliers, Kim Richardson and Marie-Christine Depestre, performing a tribute to women. For tickets, visit galadynastie.com.
If you are unable to see hip hop neo-ragtime revivalists Parlor Social (a.k.a. Dessy Di Lauro and Ric’key Pageot) at the Gala Dynastie before the duo return to California, they will headline two intimate shows on February 10 (at 7 pm and 9:45 pm) at the downtown Upstairs Jazz Bar & Grill, which has been recognized by no less than Downbeat magazine as one of the finest jazz venues on the planet. This is a hot ticket, so reservations are a must. Visit upstairsjazz.com.
The 2018 edition of Black History Month is paying special tribute to Prince, who has a long and storied history in Montreal, where he also performed his third-last concert ever. Following MLK, Mandela and Montreal jazz icon Oliver Jones, it is now Prince's turn to be the subject of a multidisciplinary exhibition being curated by musicologist Duke Eatmon, at Place des Arts’ Espace culturel Georges-Émile-Lapalme, from February 9 to March 3. Then on February 10 at 2 p.m. at Place des Arts’ Place DesChamps, Eatmon will welcome McGill University graduate Susan Rogers, who worked closely with Prince on the classics Purple Rain, Sign O 'The Times and 1999. Rogers will share memories and anecdotes of her years collaborating with Prince.
Last but not least, after paying tribute to Prince during an unforgettable 2016 performance at the Montréal International Jazz Festival, local R’n’B band The Brooks and their legendary frontman Alan Prater (who used to be the trumpet player for Michael Jackson) – plus their special musical guests such as funkman Fredy V – will wind down BHM with a special Prince tribute concert at Club Soda on February 28. For tickets, visit thepointofsale.com.
Also note that the annual BHM blood drive will be held at the Centre CEDA (2515 Delisle) in Little Burgundy, February 17 from 10 am to 4 pm.
Check out the complete schedule for Black History Month at www.moishistoiredesnoirs.com.
Richard Burnett, blogger
Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.