Québécoise violinist Noémy Gagnon-Lafrenais, viola da gambist Margaret Little, and keyboardist Christophe Gauthier form Ensemble Spinoza to celebrate the seminal work of 17th-century composer Dietrich Buxtehude on BUXTEHUDE. The ensemble gives a thoughtful and heartfelt reading of each of the composer’s beautiful sonatas in this collection.

Today, Noémy is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about her eye-opening experience at a Hozier performance, her passion for learning, and more…

What emotions do you hope listeners will experience after hearing your work?

That’s a hard one! Working on this set of seven Sonatas, Ensemble Spinoza made a conscious effort to try to dive into the subtleties of Buxtehude’s music, and emotions can be so complex… I think that one of the most beautiful aspects of instrumental music is that it leaves the door open to a multitude of interpretations and ways for it to be received. I hope that listeners will be enticed enough to listen to the record and come back to it multiple times and I hope that they will feel something different each time they visit our sonic world.

How have your influences changed as you grow as a musician?

As I grow as a musician, I have come to reflect more on how my musical training has deeply influenced my own relationship with music and music making. That perhaps, it led me to have a narrow vision. As I grow as a musician, I’m more and more interested in the role music plays in everyone’s life as a basis for social tissue. So, I have been recently reading about social history and neuroscience. I’m curious to see how these investigations will transform not only my understanding of music, but also how they will help me find new ways of communicating and sharing it.

How do you prepare for a performance?

My preparation for a performance varies a lot, depending on my role and the type of repertoire. In general, I try to prepare as much in advance as possible, especially if I’m performing the work for the first time. Professional musicians are often led to perform works of the canon multiple times in their lives. However, as a chamber musician, I often get to perform works of the baroque and classical period that are lesser known. When I have to prepare for these projects, I follow a few steps. First, I do what I call my “specific technique workout.” I identify the technical challenges of the music I have to learn, and I make up small technical exercises that address the challenges. Then, I look at primary sources (treatises) and I do a bit of musicological research to build up an idea of the context that surrounded the composition of the music and how it might have been received back then. Finally, I let my creativity take over and I craft my own interpretation. On the day of a concert, I make sure I’m rested, I drink a lot of water and I eat non-processed food!

Where and when are you at your most creative?

I’m the most creative at night. I am not sure if it’s a professional deformation since concerts tend to be in the evening. I like the quietness of the night.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?

If I could collaborate with anyone, I would love to branch out of the early music world and collaborate with the Irish musician, singer, and songwriter Hozier. I recently attended one of his performances in Laval, Quebéc and I was completely moved by the overall experience. Peacefulness and joy radiated from a crowd of over 10 000 people. I must admit I didn’t know music could hold that much power. I resonate a lot with his overall approach to music making and with the depth of his lyrics. I am not sure what the result of our practices would produce, but it sure would be interesting.

What are your other passions besides music?

I think I can be described as a passionate person, in general. I cultivate the ability to be in awe of the small and big things. I love food and I love to see it grow. Being surrounded by nature and other living creatures brings a lot of peace. I am passionate about learning new things and I like to look at the world with a scientific angle. I will also finish a degree in process engineering in May 2024!

  • Ensemble Spinoza

    Ensemble Spinoza is a Montreal based early music ensemble. It was co-founded by Noémy Gagnon-Lafrenais and Christophe Gauthier in 2020. Acclaimed gambist Margaret Little joined the ensemble in 2021. The group specializes in the performance of 17th century baroque on period instruments. The ensemble’s mission is to uncover hidden gems of the repertoire and make them available to North Americans. Ensemble Spinoza stands apart through its profound artistic contemplation, embodying a pursuit of knowledge that echoes the philosophers from whom it draws its name.