She stayed there for a long time alone in a corridor of each station, without an echo, without a beat. Now replaced by this notice: “All lyres in the metro are temporarily closed. Under the acronym of the instrument of Hermes came to sing the musicians in bygone times. Because since the start of the pandemic, in April 2020, the troubadours of the bowels of the metropolitan area have been erased from the landscape by the Société de transport de Montréal. The health situation was critical. For a long time, we would only come across rare masked passengers with shifty eyes in those corridors.
Still, the absence of musicians from the metro, initially justified, dragged on more than elsewhere. Who has seen them since their eviction? They did not protest in front of the Town Hall, demanding the right to come back masked like everyone else, after the end of the big waves. If, in Paris, a third of their workforce was able to resume service last June, with bows, guitars, microphones and voices more veiled under the mask, why not here?
Many artists are in a precarious situation, even professionals between two contracts. Some people there preferred the freedom of community space to negotiations with the producers of shows, others tested new songs with traveling audiences, immigrants made ends meet by throwing accents from their native land. So many scenarios …
What loss of income since the arrival of the virus! Especially in the heart of confinement, when no one was hiring these musicians on a stage or for a private party. Outside, the deserted streets sent them screaming elsewhere, but where? The most fragile have not been able to claim federal subsidies.
The other day I ran into a rocker guitarist who played in several stations in the West. He was begging on a street corner. It hurt my heart. Most of them have just vanished from our horizon. What if some remained buried in more hidden tunnels, like the phantom of the opera? We start dreaming …
So, while running towards my Montreal train, I greet the orphan plate with compassion. The ghost lyre must miss them too.
The musical desert of lost steps
These musicians brought so much life to places of passage where everyone crosses without seeing the other. Suddenly we stopped to pour pennies into their hats. Some became our friends, landmarks, buoys in the suburban sea. And rock, pop, folk, classic or exotic tunes floated in our heads, soon replaced by the sound of lost footsteps.
It is true that voices scratched our ears, that others sang the same bluegrass chorus over and over again on three plated chords. From November, the Jingle Bells succeeded Angels in our campaigns to the point of dizziness, but the atmosphere vibrated in these corridors, now muffled. An Inca flute player infused me with his sonorous poetry, a great cellist will have made me miss correspondences by the grace of his harmonies. At Place-des-Arts station, impromptu chamber orchestras kept many of us grounded. Nothing more democratic than this public art, offered to all those who haunt the network. Sometimes overwhelmed silhouettes seemed to stand up under an invigorating melody.
Philippe Déry, at STM communications, assures me that the Company is following the guidelines of the public health authorities, recommending for the time being to maintain the ban. This would not prevent it from showing itself sensitive to the economic impacts of the situation on the artists, as well as the positive effects of their services on the customers of the metro in need: “We therefore initiated a reflection on the favorable conditions and essential to a return of musicians to our network, while aiming to ensure the safety of customers, employees and the artists themselves. ”Whose act! For the time being, it would be premature for them to foresee a timeline. “It drags, it drags, it drags,” sighs Claire Dellar from the group of Musicians of the metro and the street of Montreal. “If the STM has not yet made up its mind, it should probably not do so before next year. Christmas is approaching and they are in limbo. But art does good. We need the music. As it is there, many of our members are considering changing jobs. “
While waiting for the tide to turn, we believe we have gotten used to everything, even the silence of the place. However, many underground transport users sometimes wonder, as I did: “What has become of the musicians of the metro?” »With the vague impression of never appreciating what we have lost so well.