June 10, 2023

More than 100 artists will gather May 24 in an amphitheater in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, to perform orchestral reinterpretations of the groundbreaking 1970s songs of Serge Fiori and his former Canadian progressive-rock group Harmonium. It’s quite a tribute to Fiori who resides about 240 miles north of the concert venue, has an endearing love for his home province and shares tips for visitors.

Fiori lives in Saint-Henri-De-Taillon, adjacent to Lac Saint-Jean, a large lake about a 5 1/2-hour drive north of Montreal. He wrote or co-wrote nearly all Harmonium’s songs, including all five on the 1975 album Si On Avait Besoin D’Une Cinquieme, which Rolling Stone put on its list of the 50 Greatest Prog-Rock Albums of All Time.

“I’m right on the beach of the lake,” says Fiori, who celebrated his 80th birthday last month. “Imagine a magnificent, beautiful beach — it looks a lot like Maine. The first time I came here I said, ‘Okay, if I have to leave Montreal, I have to be in a space where it is absolutely beautiful. Looking out the window now, I don’t believe how beautiful this is. It’s just paradise.”

Montreal, where Fiori grew up, remains close to his heart.

“There’s something about it,” he says. “Everybody says it’s a mixture of Paris and New York, and it is. And then there are the people. They are so receptive to music — it’s insane.”

During the pandemic in summer 2020, 68 musicians in Montreal’s symphony orchestra recorded Histoires sans paroles – Harmonium symphonique, a symphonic reinterpretation of Harmonium’s music for a two-CD set that was released in 2020 and a four-vinyl, two-CD box set that was released last year.

“We had to respect the distance between the musicians because of COVID,” Fiori recalls about the recording sessions that were held at Montreal’s 1,900-seat Maison Symphonique. “To maintain social distancing between all the players, we had to build and add an additional 20 feet in front of the original stage. It was an amazing effort.”

Fiori says he’s in love with Old Montreal, an area not to be missed by American travelers. Old Montreal, located between the St. Lawrence River and downtown Montreal, looks European with cobblestone streets and 17th- and 18th- Century architecture.

“Saint-Laurent and Saint-Denis are streets that are so diverse and so intriguing, and Sainte-Catherine’s jazz festival is the best in the world,” Fiori says.

It’s difficult to identify outstanding restaurants in Montreal, he says, because there are so many good ones. One favorite, though, is Le Café du Nouveau Monde, a French bistro at the Theatre du Nouveau Monde.

“It’s located in the middle of the jazz festival,” Fiori says. “You eat food, you have the greatest wines in the world and you have a crowd that’s so happy to hear music and be in that environment. You have live bands outside. A meal, some wine and some great music — that’s very Montreal.”

Quebec City is also a special place for Fiori.

“Quebec City is Old Montreal everywhere,” he says. “It’s Quebec, it’s Paris, it’s little Paris. It’s just so beautiful, warm and rich, with little boutiques and little bistros. It’s so French, so Latin. Americans and other people I know who go to Quebec City book it for three days, and after being there, don’t want to go home. Every corner in that city is completely beautiful.”

Fiori has seen many special places during his lifetime, and he offers a special message to the world.

“Everybody needs to believe in themselves, because you never know what can possibly happen,” he says. “Look at what happened to me. I wrote Harmonium’s music when I was 21 to 25 years old, and, now, years later, it’s hard to believe that my music would become symphonic. It’s a dream come true. So, believe in yourself and be grateful.”

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