Interview – Huguette Lavigne

Ottawa, ON-based pianist and composer, Huguette Lavigne is back with a new release to add to her collection of solo piano pieces, “Rails”.

Featuring a lovely, dancing upper melody supported by ascending arpeggios, “Rails” carries the listener along a sun-dappled stream just shy of three minutes long. Much like many of her over 40 piano works, this is another beautiful manifestation of Lavigne’s desire to let go and let the muse take her wherever it pleases.

“There is something about breaking the rules that can be terribly satisfying,” she says. “My fingers sometimes go where they want to on the keyboard and at times I sort of have to take them back home or rein them in.”

Lavigne’s playing and composing are truly extensions of her physical and mental being. She’s an artist who eschews the tradition of meticulously notating her compositions in favour of relying on a shorthand of her own to facilitate recall for future performances. Her final compositions are eventually stored entirely in her head and fingers. Once they’re recorded she moves on to the next piece.

“Not notating everything down keeps things fresh,” explains Lavigne. “You are open to new phrases and resolutions. This is risky, but oh so satisfying!”

Huguette’s latest album, Five O’Clock Somwhere was released in 2020, although “Rails” is from her third album, Free and Easy, originally released in 2019.

Check out the video for “Rails” below, and find out more about Huguette via our mini-interview.

First off, care to introduce yourself to our readers?

Absolutely Beats readers! I am an Ottawa-based composer who writes exclusively for the piano. I’ve been hitched to a piano as far as I can remember, and for me, it has always been a creative refuge from the everyday mundane.

There’s nothing that can compare to playing on a freshly tuned piano. Everything just flows so smoothly and velvety towards new musical phrases, or if I’m lucky, an entire piece, created through improvisation. Okay, so my piano was tuned yesterday!

I do not notate everything I compose. But I do record every bit and piece, and I have developed my own shorthand that sketches the content of each composition. Unlike being part of a group of musicians, my musical existence is mostly solitary, so it is always thrilling for me to be given an opportunity to share my music. I am grateful to Canadian Beats for this.

I‘ve been asked how do I create such diverse styles and themes? I guess it comes from the unconscious mind where synapses fire and connect creative dots between thoughts and images and physical responses. So this makes perfect sense to me but really isn’t very satisfying. So I guess, I really don’t know!

Tell us about the recording process behind “Rails”.

It has been a privilege to record locally in Ottawa, at Ravens Street Studios. I always look forward to playing on their freshly tuned 9FT Baldwin grand piano.

Not notating every note and nuance down, keeps things fresh. You are open to new phrases and resolutions. It can be risky, but oh, so sweet when it happens.

It’s a one-track recording and with a bit of mastering, like icing on a cake, it’s done!

What was the highlight of 2020?

My best friend’s mother was a well-known watercolour artist and her paintings have been on many walls. So I thought I’ll never be on someone’s wall so where will I be? Well, countless online music sites, music streaming platforms and radio stations, etc. are everywhere on this planet, and so I’m on the best wall there is! It has been a thrill this year to hear from people around the world commenting on my music.

What do you hope to accomplish in your career in 2021?

Somehow when I finish composing and recording the 5th album in 2021, it will be very satisfying to know that I have written fifty pieces. I’m not boasting, I just like to count my pieces! Right now I’m at number 43.

Is there anyone out there you’d like to collaborate or open/close a concert with in the future?

Collaborating with film and documentary producers would be rewarding, and opening or closing a concert for Ludovico Einaudi and similar artists would be thrilling. Einaudi performed with videos at the Bell Centre in Montreal. It would be inspiring to work with Jodi Proznick, Laila Biali, Rufus Wainwright, Celine Dion, Madeleine Peyroux, Daniel Belanger, Coeur de pirate, etc.

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