Press release for immediate distribution

The Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan
and L’Astral finally open for business!

Montreal, Monday, June 29, 2009 - The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal proudly announces the inauguration of the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, which opens its doors today. Some 350 high-profile guests, including government representatives, sponsors, partners and many artists and journalists, will stride down the red carpet to attend an inaugural concert performed by Oliver Jones and his guests in L’Astral, the Festival’s new live showroom, as well as visit the magnificently renovated seven-storey building at 305 Ste. Catherine St. West, which houses the Balmoral bistro, its Terrasse Côtes du Rhône, and the Festival pressroom. The inaugural concert will be preceded by a cocktail, featuring speeches from Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay, Quebec and Canadian Ministers Christine St-Pierre and Denis Lebel, Rio Tinto Alcan chief executive officer Jacynthe Côté and Astral Media president and chief executive officer Ian Greenberg.

305 Ste. Catherine Street West

Perfectly situated right in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles, at the corner of Ste. Catherine St. West and the new Place des Festivals, the Blumenthal Building (property of the SIQ), with its historic facade, was generously ceded by the Government of Québec to the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal, a non-profit corporation, via a 30-year emphyteutic lease. This large-scale project finally gives the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal the respectability of a year-round bricks-and-mortar home, a grand dream come true after 10 years of unceasing efforts. The Maison is a reality thanks also to the invaluable support of Rio Tinto Alcan, world leader in the aluminum industry and a faithful Festival partner through the past 20 years.

A permanent address for jazz and all its fans

The Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan will serve as a permanent headquarters to showcase and promote jazz and musicianship at the international level. Along with the Galerie du Festival-which may be converted into a pressroom during the Festival-the Maison also houses a versatile new showroom, a bistro-terrasse, exhibition rooms (which will showcase works by renowned American photographer Herman Leonard this autumn), and a centre for audiovisual documentation, conservation and protection of the Festival’s musical heritage, accessible to the public at large, free of charge.


With 350 seating capacity in the cabaret format and 600 capacity standing, a balcony arcing perfectly around the stage, a configuration conceived by Alain Simard that places every spectator no further than 15 metres from the performers, a painstaking acoustic design courtesy of Guy Desmarteaux of Go Multimédia, and an ideal location, L’Astral is sure to be a major destination spot in the Quartier des spectacles. Along with offering state-of-the-art stage technology to artists from around the world, the venue should quickly become a favourite thanks to its user-friendly live TV webcasting facilities. For the duration of the Festival, L’Astral will host concerts in the Jazz d’ici La Presse (6 p.m.), Jazz au club (9 p.m.) and Blues en reprise (midnight) series. Beginning in September, the new showroom will host the Festival’s annual Jazz All-Year Round series.

L’Astral could never have seen the light of day without the support of our governments, who contributed to its construction, development and outfitting, and our precious partnership with Astral Media, one of the largest media firms in Canada. Thanks to its vast network in the specialized and pay television sectors, in radio, outdoor signage and interactive media, Astral Media will also contribute to promoting L’Astral and the artists who perform there.

Bistro Le Balmoral

Whether sunbathing on the Terrasse Côtes du Rhône or sipping a glass of wine indoors in the resto (a total of about 200 seats), fans of good food and the good life will have their fill! Montrealers and their guests can give in to their guilty pleasures by enjoying the Balmoral’s French bistro menu, now presenting Festival fans with dishes specially conceived by chef François Carré for the lovely summer season and the Festival’s 30th anniversary festivities. The Balmoral will host the Jam Sessions TD Canada Trust at 11 p.m. from July 1 to 12. The official inauguration of the bistro will be held in early autumn, timed with the launch of its year-round menu.

A multi-functional Maison

One of the keystones of the Quartier des spectacles, a sector entirely reconceived to emphasize and showcase the culture and venues of the downtown core, the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan may also be used by other events and festivals, as they will have access to its dressing rooms and the logistical facilities and offices on the upper floors. Beyond the Festival period, these premises may serve as rehearsal spaces for our musicians. And this new cultural complex is sure to quickly become one of the city’s most high-profile tourist attractions, drawing tourists all year round by capitalizing on the international renown of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal!

A historic building

The Blumenthal Building was constructed in 1910 from plans developed by architects David Ogilvy and Charles Alexander Mitchell. The seven-storey property housed the Blumenthal business, specializing in the fabrication of men’s clothing, until the mid-’30s. Down through the years, Steinberg and the Toronto-Dominion Bank also occupied the premises, with the SAT also briefly taking up tenancy. The building was classified as a Montreal heritage site in 1990, thanks to its remarkable glazed terra-cotta facade, but also because it is a significant representation of the commercial architecture of the early 20th century. Restoration was executed by Verreault Construction according to plans by Éric Gauthier, principal architect of the FABG/Daoust Lestage consortium. Construction for the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal was executed under the supervision of Danielle Demers, and direction of operations for the Maison will be handled by Denyse McCann, co-founder of the Festival.

Architectural lighting and the Mosaïque jazz

To showcase the transformation of the Blumenthal Building into the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan, a lighting plan for the facades of Balmoral and Ste. Catherine Streets was conceived by Gilles Arpin, lighting designer, in collaboration with the Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles. As for the Balmoral, architectural lighting was permanently installed to enhance the images of the 24 Festival legends adorning the windows of the building and overhanging the brand-new Place des Festivals. Stepping into the hall of the Maison (with its floor mosaic echoing the famed piano from the Festival logo), a multicoloured improvisation greets the visitor: the Mosaïque jazz. This two-part tableau, conceived by Montreal artist Alain Paiement, is a digital imaging piece printed on aluminum panels. The piece creates a jazzy mosaic, transformed by translucent double exposures and interwoven coloured segments. The resulting abundance of random imagery expresses the festive spirit of jazz and the annual event dedicated to it.

A project with many partners

The Festival International de Jazz de Montréal offers particular thanks to the Government of Québec, specifically the ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine, which supported the project with a contribution of over 10 million dollars on a total budget of $17M to transform and bring the Blumenthal Building up to standard. The Government of Canada contributed to its renovation, development and outfitting with specialized equipment via the ministry of Canada Heritage, thanks to a contribution of $1.5M, Canada Economic Development, which injected over $1.4M, and Industry Canada, whose crucial support to the conservation of our archives and the revitalization of our website gave us an additional helping hand in optimizing this excellent new tool for the promotion of tourism. We also offer thanks to Trust AV for the preservation of audiovisual archives, and Canada Heritage, who participated in preserving and enhancing part of the Festival’s photographic heritage. Moreover, the Maison du Festival Rio Tinto Alcan project quite simply would never have become a reality without the involvement of many private sponsors; we offer particular thanks to Rio Tinto Alcan and Astral Media as well as suppliers Jura, Pepsi and Molson.

The 30th edition of the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal will run from June 30 to July 12, 2009.

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