Friday, September 22, 1995, the first concert of the newly created Montreal Chamber Music Festival was presented in the Chalet atop Mount Royal. This was the culmination of a dream, the planning of which began much earlier. Indeed, Denis Brott had the idea and began a crusade to create a chamber music festival unique to the city. On May 29th, 1995, the then Mayor of Montreal, Pierre Bourque, himself an ardent supporter of the idea, wrote to Denis: “…I am pleased to confirm the interest of the City of Montreal in the first Chamber Music Festival to be held in the Chalet atop Mount Royal. You can count on the support of the City. I plan to discuss with my colleagues on the Municipal Council and in Municipal Services to ensure the success of this project...” (The original letter was in French).
After ten years at the Chalet, the Festival moved to St. James Church for five years then to St. George’s Church. As of 2015 the Festival performs in Montreal’s finest halls, including Place des Arts, Bourgie, Pollack and Oscar Peterson halls.
Since its inception the Festival has grown from five concerts presented in 1995 to 18 concerts in 2014 offered in a Classical Series, a Jazz Series, pre-concert talks with artists, and an outreach program comprised of five free concerts in non-conventional locations that attract annually up to 4 500 spectators. In its 19 year history the Festival has presented hundreds of concerts to more than 100 000 spectators. Moreover, millions of people hear and see the Festival each year through our radio, television and web partners WGBH, Radio-Canada and PBS Mountain Lake.
The Festival has received numerous awards and accolades: The Conseil Québécois de la musique nominated the Festival for six Opus Awards which were won on three occasions, 1999, 2001 and again in 2009. The Grand Prize of Tourisme Québec was given to the Festival in 2007 for its promotion of Québec and Montreal. In 2012, the Festival was again awarded Gold for the Montreal Region and Silver in the National Grand Prize category from Tourisme Québec; the Festival was again Grand Prize winner in 2013 for the Montreal Region. As well, in 2012, Festivals et Évènements Québec and the Société d’attractions touristiques du Québec gave the Festival its Grand prix Coup d’éclat. In 2014 the Festival was named Evénement de l’année by Destinations Centre-Ville.
Through the years the Festival has hosted dozens of internationally renowned artists that have showcased their talent and their art on our stages. Among them are Rachel Barton Pine, Colin Carr, Jean-Philippe Collard, James Ehnes, Margie Gillis, Oliver Jones, Anton Kuerti, André Laplante, Alain Lefebvre, Jon Vickers and Elizabeth Wallfisch to name but a few, and groups such as the Swingle Singers, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Canadian Brass and the Emerson, Guarneri, St. Lawrence, Fine Arts and Tokyo string quartets. The Festival prides itself in presenting the best young Canadian musicians in the early stages of their careers alongside those established artists offering exposure and a valuable learning experience: of note, the young Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki,, now world renowned, Jonathan Crow now concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, teenage sensations Timothy Chooi, Grand Prize winner of the OSM Standard Life Competition, Annie Zhou, Daniel Clarke-Bouchard, Conrad Tao and the Cecilia, Afiara and Dover String Quartets, each winners of the Banff International String Quartet Competition.