Masterful Rituaels film-concert from collectif9

After seeing a preview, I recommend Rituaels, a new film-concert from collectif9 especially to anyone who is missing live performance, wanting the experience of live music in their home setting, and especially to any artists intrigued by the challenges and contradictions in bringing something live to life, via a lifeless electronic device.

For artists curious about what is possible? Have a look.

Rituæls premiere broadcast (via will be on Friday, December 11, 2020 at 8pm for free, and will be accompanied by a discussion with the members of the group. The film-concert will be accessible free of charge for a period of 48 hours, after which it will be available for rental on their website until January 11, 2021.

As you can probably tell from that little teaser-video, a great deal of thought seems to have gone into this project, projected to be the first “film-concert” of a series. I remember Marshall McLuhan and his identification of media as “hot” or “cold” or even “cool”. A film seen in a theatre or a concert presented in a concert hall or church is a hotter medium event than when it’s seen as a video on your personal device. For better or worse, the creators of Rituaels seem to understand that this film needs to be constructed in such a way so as not to overwhelm us with its intensity. The choice of repertoire, the presentation of each musical piece by the players of collectif9, the visuals and the montage all contribute to the effect. The word “cool” is one I want to use, not just in the McLuhan sense but in the sense of something hip and attractive to those in the music world who are not—like myself—over the age of 60.

There can be an awkwardness to Zoom and other attempts to simulate liveness in the virtual realm. I recall the weird first attempts at a Saturday Night Live, the unevenness of interviews on CBC or CNN even between professionals. Facetime or whatsapp or Messenger may give you a close-up look at friends and loved ones, but we are still learning the vocabulary, still getting adjusted to pandemic life. And even so, how then does one possibly preserve a sense of liveness? especially without anything awkward or odd..? Do we get a sense of a real live concert when there’s something still & orderly, if the chaos of people in between movements with their coughs or chair noises are in some sense how we know that something is not recorded but live…?

As I think about what I saw in my preview of Rituaels I am reminded of Bertolt Brecht who would have something to say –recalling his Verfremdungseffekt –about the process from the audience’s viewpoint. Do we gain something when the performers turn their pages, tune up or move their chairs, before playing? I think so. That bit of mechanical movement is a gesture to us, reminding us that the music is not just something artificially recorded on a soundtrack, but being made for us in the moment by the living musicians, calling attention to the mechanics of playing music. It puts our focus on the music and the music-making rather than the images.

Can one make something that has the freshness of a live performance while also relaxing us & putting us at ease? At times it’s very laid back, but when I played Rituaels last night there were moments when my wife thought I was listening to rock music, probably during Aheym by Bryce Dessner, the most intense moments of the film-concert. This version by Kronos quartet is different from what collectif9 did, but gives you both a sense of Dessner’s piece does as well as some visuals that may have influenced the team working with collectif9. I’m reminded of Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi, that seminal film with timelapse & the music of Philip Glass.

Excuse me for repeating myself, but I would recommend that anyone wondering about bringing live performance into the virtual world should have a look at this film-concert. I was intrigued when I saw the press release for Rituaels, indeed, when I saw that they were calling it a “film-concert”. Whenever we make something, especially something new, we may not always know what we’ve made. It’s therefore quite marvelous to discover something displaying genuine mastery, created with a deep understanding of the issues facing the audience.

It works, and it’s a pleasure.

Collectif9 are an ensemble of four violins, two cellos, two violas and a bass. Their nine string players have been performing for almost a decade. Rituaels includes ten live performers, namely the nine of collectif9 plus dancer Stacey Désilier.

Stacey Désilier (photo: Clément Dietz)

I chose to watch Rituaels on a big screen, to allow the visuals to move me, and wasn’t disappointed. Even enlarged there’s a great deal of detail & complexity to reward the viewer. We find ourselves in a church space where the bodies of some musicians are already discovered in place, and others process in slowly using the church aisles while playing. It suggests a ritual quality because of the space, because of the way they process slowly, and perhaps also because I’m mindful of the title. I wonder, not for the first time, what does that word mean?

We’re put in a funny hybrid space. The music emerges from live players who don’t seem overly coached or stagey, just doing what musicians do. They play, their focus is their music or their instrument not a fake performance or anything stagey or ostentatious. Yet there are artificial visuals too, some from CGI, some from the dancer shown in close-ups, some from cinematography of the natural world. While Stacey Désilier may be a dancer, there is very little that one might identify as “dance” in the usual sense of the word. We are mostly presented with Désilier in a variety of postures & attitudes, mostly static & at times very contemplative. That bold choice to be understated gives the film-concert additional intensity & power.

After the very first item on the program we’re listening to relatively recent compositions.

Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179): O vis æternitatis
Arvo Pärt (né en 1935): Psalom et Summa
Nicole Lizée (née en 1973): Another Living Soul
Bryce Dessner (né en 1976): Aheym et Tenebre
Michael Tippett (1905-1998): Lament
Jocelyn Morlock (née en 1969): Exaudi (arrangement pour violoncelle solo et cordes)

Collectif9 includes nine string players:

– Chloé Chabanole, John Corban, Robert Margaryan, Elizabeth Skinner, violin
– Scott Chancey, Xavier Lepage-Brault, viola
– Jérémie Cloutier, Andrea Stewart, cello
– Thibault Bertin-Maghit, bass

The team behind the film—concert is led by their bass player.
– Conception et direction artistique: Thibault Bertin-Maghit
– Réalisation vidéo: Benoit Fry & Lucas Harrison Rupnik
– Réalisation musicale: Carl Talbot
– Éclairage: Alexandre Péloquin
– Scénographie: Joëlle Harbec

Rituæls will be broadcast for free for the first time on Friday, December 11, 2020 at 8pm, and will be accompanied by a discussion with the members of the group. The film-concert will be accessible free of charge for a period of 48 hours, after which it will be available for rental on their website until January 11, 2021.

Friday, December 11, 2020 at 8pm
available at
Free until Dec. 13 | $10 after Dec. 13
Facebook event:
Donations accepted:

This entry was posted in Animals, domestic & wild, Cinema, video & DVDs, Dance, theatre & musicals, Music and musicology, Personal ruminations & essays, Popular music & culture, Reviews, Spirituality & Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Masterful Rituaels film-concert from collectif9

  1. Pingback: Messiah / Complex | barczablog

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