The phantom trumpet of the MTC boardroom; a eulogy


I suspect that everyone in this world has personal heroes who have influenced and enriched their lives. Those special individuals that resonate with us and inspire us to be better at everything we do. This is a story about one of my personal heroes.

In March 2000 I was in my second season at the Manitoba Theatre Centre preparing for our production of A Streetcar Named Desire which was to be the cornerstone production of the 1999 – 2000 season. There was a lot of buzz about the show directed by Miles Potter and staring Seana McKenna and Ari Cohen.

On the first day of rehearsal I met the composer and sound designer; a tall frenchman with a twinkle in his eye, a bounce in his step and one of those smiles that is infectious. I introduced myself as his sound operator and all he said was “You are gonna be a busy busy boy”, and then laughed his one of a kind laugh. It’s safe to say that I liked Marc Desormeaux from the second that I met him.

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I remember there being a controversy about music composition for that show. It seems that the theatre didn’t expect to have a composer so there was no money in the budget for any music to be written or a proper sound design. The director had different ideas and insisted that the show have a composer and Marc was brought in at the last minute and money was found to pay him the bare minimum. Of course there was no money for his accommodations so a volunteer billet was contacted to house him for the three weeks he would be in Winnipeg rehearsing.

The second day he was here, he approached me with a crazed look in his eyes and grabbed my shoulders complaining about the very nice lady who had taken him in, with her nineteen cats and living next to the 24 hour truck stop. He wasn’t sure if he could write music there let alone record anything due to the noise and smell. He left for rehearsal muttering about cat hair and the noise that air brakes on trucks make.

A few days later I came into the theatre a little early to get ready for a production meeting in the boardroom. I was surprised to see that Marc was already there and had made coffee, but he had a really suspicious look on his face. I looked past him in the corner of the room, and saw a sleeping bag, pillow, suitcase and a variety of musical instruments…

“YOU’RE LIVING IN THE BOARDROOM?!”

“Ya, it’s perfect. It’s quiet at night, close to the rehearsal hall, there’s showers downstairs in the dressing rooms, and a coffee machine!”

“You can’t live in the boardroom Marc!”

“Sure I can, it’ll be fine. Say, do you have any quarters? I want to get some breakfast out of the vending machine.”

And so it went for the weeks before opening. Marc would go to rehearsal, and then retire to the boardroom to write the music for the show. By the second week, he had discovered costume storage and requisitioned a bright yellow bathrobe with big pink flowers and a set of giant dinosaur slippers. He would wander the halls of MTC late at night in those clothes playing his trumpet and munching on stale Doritos from the vending machines.

It would scare the crap out of the night cleaners, and years later they would still talk of the phantom trumpet that would echo off the concrete of the Manitoba Theatre Centre from the crazy french guy living in the boardroom.

When he had finished writing the music, and we went to record it, he had created an exquisite score that was a work of art.

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Marc would return to MTC a dozen more times, with the highlight being his score for Orpheus Descending, which in my opinion, was the best theatrical score to ever grace our stage. In the hands of master sound designer Peter McBoyle, Marc’s music for Orpheus would colour the space with warmth, to the point that we would forget the cold grey walls of the MTC auditorium. It was a highlight in my theatrical life to be a part of that production and to share a production table with such giants.

A few weeks ago, Marc passed away, and I never got a chance to tell him how much his work meant to me, and how much he influenced my career; how much I learned from him. I will miss him greatly, but Canadian theatre will never be able to replace him.

After I post this, I think I may go steal that bathrobe and slippers from wardrobe, and wander the halls with a trumpet in his honour.

The clouds are full of music tonight. Rest in peace my friend.

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11 thoughts on “The phantom trumpet of the MTC boardroom; a eulogy

  1. Bella Antimatter says:

    Thank you, JBJ…

  2. Jay Brazeau says:

    So beautiful. thank you. xo Jay Brazeau

  3. Beatrice Campbell says:

    Beautiful.
    Anyone else that has stories, photos, audio, video (you name it) that they want to share please send to made62marcdesormeaux@gmail.com for his wife and family and possibly the world to share in. There is a memorial on November 19th at the NAC Studio in Ottawa.

  4. Gil Osborne says:

    Thank you for this xxx

  5. Samira Rose says:

    Thank you so much for this JB! xoxo

  6. Thanks for this post.

    Marc and I spent a great deal of time working together. Even a thousand miles south I miss him. I am grieved to know that trumpet has sounded its last.

  7. Thanks JBJ. I have spent untold hours with Marc, working at GCTC.
    Largely thanks to his support GCTC moved from 1/4″ tape and cassette to ProTools and CDs. Years later he helped smooth the way into LCS automation. He helped ensure that sound and music became recognized as equal to lighting, and that operators had the tools to enable all sound designers the chance to realize their creativity in both the old and the new venues.

    I am deeply grieved to know that his trumpet will sound no more.

  8. Todd Duckworth says:

    Thanks for the story, beautiful. I had the pleasure of working with Marc several times, one of them his Chet Baker show. Heard him often blowing that trumpet, strolling through GCTC.

  9. JBJ says:

    A site that’s collecting memories of Marc:

    http://made62.blogspot.ca/

  10. What a beautiful rememberance of a beautiful friend. Thank you.
    John Koensgen

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