The incomparable Diane Dufresne is in a class of her own, having been a multidisciplinary creator long before the term became fashionable.
From her beginnings as the fresh new face of song, as she was described in the late 1960s by Quebec entertainment magazine Photo-Vedettes, to her current Diva status, with spells as Quebec’s first female rocker and as the goddess of the Olympic Stadium in 1984, Diane Dufresne has always been able to reinvent herself by exploring genres – song, rock, pop, symphonic music – and by continually updating her artistic approach.
She was born in 1944 in the Hochelaga-Maisonneuve district of Montreal and began performing in Paris in the mid-1960s. The Dufresne revolution began in 1972, when she morphed from being only a singer into a brilliant stage performer who could rock in joual street slang and make every show a monumental and memorable event.
Her accomplishments are impressive: in 1980, she was the first Quebec chanteuse to perform at the Montreal Forum with her show J’me mets sur mon 36, and the first Quebec woman to fill the Olympic Stadium – in her unforgettable Magie rose concert in 1984, with an audience of 55,000, all dressed in pink, cheering her on. These theatrical happenings, with flamboyant designer costumes, made history. Dufresne also created the role of Stella Spotlight on the 1978 LP of Starmania, the legendary rock opera by Luc Plamondon and Michel Berger. She also performed the role in the show’s 1979 debut run in Paris.
Diane Dufresne has performed in Quebec, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Africa and Japan, and worked with many illustrious artists – Serge Gainsbourg, Georges Brassens, Juliette Gréco, Michel Jonasz, Jacques Higelin, Claude Nougaro, Alain Bashung, Pierre Grosz and, of course, François Cousineau and Luc Plamondon. She is also an accomplished songwriter who wrote many of her own hits.
In the 1970s, while continuing her career as a singer, she began to paint and worked at Brother Jérôme’s studio, an encounter that had a marked impact on her artistic endeavours and enabled her to explore other creative facets. She has presented more than 25 solo exhibitions in Quebec, France and the United States since 1993.
In the 1990s and 2000s, she performed concept shows in Quebec and throughout the Francophonie (Réservé; En liberté conditionnelle; Diane Dufresne chante Kurt Weill, with the Orchestre Métropolitain conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin; Plurielle; Effusions, which combines songs with the visual arts; Terre planète bleue; and Sinéquanone).
In 2017, she performed in Montréal sym-phonique, a huge outdoor concert at the foot of Mount Royal as part of the festivities celebrating Montreal’s 375th anniversary.
In 2018, she released Meilleur après, an album of original songs. Diane Dufresne’s performance this evening is her first with the NAC Orchestra.
A graduate of Les Petits Chanteurs du Mont-Royal, Simon Leclerc studied at the Conservatoire de musique de Montréal and then quickly dived into a multitude of musical worlds, from backing vocals (Céline Dion) to musicals (Gala, Les Misérables and Dracula, for which he composed the music), and quickly became a highly sought-after arranger-composer for artists across Canada.
Leclerc was responsible for the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal’s symphonic concerts featuring Bruno Pelletier, Gino Vanelli, Dianne Reeves, Lorraine Desmarais and Laurence Jalbert, as well as the orchestra’s concert versions of Notre-Dame de Paris and Starmania. The Starmania concert was also performed by the NAC Orchestra, under Leclerc’s direction, as part of the NAC’s Quebec Scene in 2007.
He was called upon by Yannick Nézet-Séguin to produce a Kurt Weill recording with Diane Dufresne and the Orchestre Métropolitain. He also composed the Concerto pour Animateur de Radio et Orchestre (Concerto for Radio Host and Orchestra), and a Concerto Grosso for 4 Bassoons, Contrabassoon and Orchestra, commissioned by Kent Nagano.
In 2017, as part of the celebrations of the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal, producer Nicolas Lemieux entrusted Leclerc with the direction of, and arrangements for, the Montréal symphonique mega-concert, and subsequently asked him to create the arrangements for an album paying tribute to Félix Leclerc.
At 53 years old, Simon Leclerc is still listening, imagining and keeping the beat…