LE MOULIN À MUSIQUE was co-founded in 1980 by three musicians: Marie-Hélène da Silva, Jean-Luc Éthier and Denise Bellemare. Their first contacts with audiences were based on performing children’s songs, with the idea of passing on to the very young the music and stories that delighted the youth of previous generations.
Born in a family where theatre and music lay at the foundation of education, Marie-Hélène da Silva develops her acting and musical talents at a very young age. This versatility leads her to design music and theatre productions. Involved from the outset, her brother Joël da Silva will also contribute by providing his talents as a playwright and a director. Composer Jean-Luc Éthier and playwright Jean Régnier will also be involved in several productions as designer and performer. So over the years, many creations stand out and help hone the artistic approach.
À portée de la main was created in 1984 by a collective directed by Marie-Hélène and Joël da Silva. The touring was handled by Les Jeunesses Musicales du Canada, the main coordinator until 1986. The show was performed in France, Quebec, and Ontario. Critical acclaim and an enthusiastic response from audiences combined to make this production a first achievement for LE MOULIN À MUSIQUE.
With La Goutte, first performed in 1986, the theatrical and staging aspects of productions took on a decisive importance for LE MOULIN À MUSIQUE. Created in 1989, Les Boîtes ne sont pas toutes carrées toured extensively throughout Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick.
During this same period, Madame Violon took the stage – alone at first, and later on assisted by her accompanist, Allan Von Sutton in a production entitled Un Violon sur l’épaule (1989). It became a hit that is still on the road 20 years later.
In response to the public’s requests, Un violon sur l’épaule gave rise to the English version Violin on a String (1994) and to Madame Violon raconte (1995), a workshop designed for toddlers. After a Montreal Maison de la culture tour, the production won the OPUS Prize for Best Young Audience Production of 1997 awarded by the Conseil québécois de la Musique. The production was later invited in Belgium by Les Jeunesses Musicales de Liège in 1998.
In 1992, a grant from the Conseil des arts de Montréal (CACUM) provided the opportunity to undertake exploratory work towards creating a workshop and a production on electronic music using computers. The interactive workshop De MIDI à l’infini and the production La Symphonie synthétique were performed by Jean-Luc Éthier from 1994 to 2000.
LE MOULIN À MUSIQUE reached a turning point with an important change in the company’s structure. From that point on, Marie-Hélène da Silva would be the sole artistic director. That same year, Il était deux fois, (music tales) was created introducing contemporary music for the first time. In addition, the visual and sound aspects of productions were being increasingly developed. That production was the first to be presented at La Maison Théâtre (1998).
The innovative La Maîtresse rouge was presented for the first time in 2000 at Les Coups de théâtre International Children’s Festival. Performed by a string quartet, the production (still touring schools) offers a unique experience with contemporary music and a new concept of musical “spatialization.” From now on, Le Moulin à Musique is focused on shaping a cultural mediation project that builds on the experience of the production. This creation is also the beginning of a new collaboration with Véronique Lacroix and the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal.
In 2001 came L’aube (Dawn), a poetic and daring creation written and directed by Joël da Silva. Ever since, performers have been at the heart of the creative process. Their involvement extends from musical and theatrical improvisations to character development. This process leads to performances based on a series of “tableaux,” as in Bonnes Nouvelles created in 2004 with two musicians and a contemporary dancer. Bonnes Nouvelles was also a turning point in Marie-Hélène da Silva’s career, as it was her first attempt as playwright and director.
Released in the fall of 2006, Garde-robe (The Closet) is without doubt the most accomplished creation of Joël da Silva designed for Le Moulin à Musique. He came up, once more, with inventive staging using a mixture of visual and musical textures. Co-produced with the baroque ensemble Les Boréades de Montréal, Garde-robe is also the result of the generous artistic contribution of its performers Francis Colpron, a baroque flute virtuoso, and Marie-Hélène da Silva herself, an actress and violinist.
Pierres blanches was created in 2010 under the artistic direction of Marie-Hélène da Silva. The production explores loss and uses drama, dance and visual arts to show the resilience of human beings. Through cultural mediation, a children’s choir shares the stage with the performers. A version with three performers (Karina Iraola, Marie-Hélène da Silva and Jonathan Barriault) is also offered to continue the work without children.
Gros Paul is a contemporary musical tale created with the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal (ECM+) ensemble. Anne-Marie Olivier’s play premiered in 2011 and was set to music by Michel Gonneville. It explores the very current issue of an over-consuming world. Co-produced with Jeunesses musicales Canada, Fiddlehead! opened in 2012. In a solo performance with her violin, Marie-Hélène da Silva embodies a moody and enigmatic character who is waiting for birds to return. She creates a moment of storytelling through strange sounds, auditory sensations and music.