Riopelle Symphonique Presented by the Audain Foundation

Riopelle Symphonique Presented by the Audain Foundation
Published on December 14, 2023

 Riopelle Centenary Celebrations with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: 

JUNO Award-Winning Riopelle Symphonique, Presented by The Audain Foundation, set to make its mark in Vancouver with an immersive concert event 

Vancouver, April 3, 2024 – The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, in partnership with GSI Musique and the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, is proud to join the unprecedented celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of Jean Paul Riopelle with Riopelle Symphonique presented by The Audain Foundation, a musical and visual odyssey through the artist’s masterpieces. 

Following successful engagements last year in Montreal and Québec City, heralded as “an extraordinary event” (CBC Radio Canada) and “a beautiful spectacle that unfolds before our eyes” (Le Devoir), the most recent feather in Riopelle Symphonique’s cap is the album’s JUNO win for album artwork of the year.  

For one night only, April 20th, 2024, Vancouver audiences can experience this stunning multimedia concert event firsthand. The Orpheum stage will be transformed as it never has before, with three custom-built LCD screens hanging from the rafters, taking audiences on a visual journey through Riopelle’s art. The concert features original music co-created by legendary singer songwriter Serge Fiori and composer Blair Thomson, conducted by Adam Johnson.  

Riopelle Symphonique marks the VSO’s first truly immersive concert experience, elevating the masterpieces of Jean Paul Riopelle with orchestral music inspired directly by his visionary work” says Angela Elster, President & CEO of the VSO and VSO School of Music. “This one-night only experience will provide Vancouver art lovers the rare opportunity to appreciate the outstanding breadth and detail of Riopelle’s body of work, augmented by the artistry of the VSO. We are grateful to The Audain Foundation for demonstrating creative leadership as Presenting Partner of the Western Canada premiere of this groundbreaking collaboration. We therefor present Riopelle Symphonique, the student showcase and the entire event in honour Michael Audain and his wife Yoshiko Karasawa and their commitment to the arts in Canada.” 

Adding to the uniqueness of the event and the celebration of Jean Paul Riopelle’s legacy on the Canadian arts scene, and his passion for arts education, is a pre-concert showcase of student artwork. In a first of its kind collaboration, visual arts students from Arts Umbrella and composition and performance students from the VSO School of Music have created art inspired by Riopelle.   

The students have been working for months, guided by the legacy of Canadian artistic icon. Fifteen-year-old VSO School of Music composition student Allison shares her process: “Not all of Riopelle’s work is conceptual, some is abstract, which leaves interpretation to the audience. But there’s always a story behind his art. The same concept applies to music and composition specifically. Whenever I write, there is meaning behind the music, but I also want the listener to create their own meaning.”  Canvas works from 10 advanced art students at Arts Umbrella will be on display pre-concert in the Orpheum lobby, with VSO School of Music students playing their Riopelle-inspired works in a prelude performance. Riopelle Symphonique ticket holders are encouraged to arrive at 7pm to the Orpheum to experience the student artistic creations.  

The VSO concert will bring together over 100 musicians on the Orpheum stage as the VSO is joined by members of the Vancouve r Bach Choir to perform the original music, and create a multimedia immersive experience in five symphonic movements. Together, the musical creation and visual environment evoke key periods of Jean Paul Riopelle’s life, from his early experimentation in Montréal, his rise to glory in post-war France, his profound reverence of nature and the Great Canadian North, to the closing chapter of his life — a time marked by his return to his beloved island of Isle-aux-Grues, nestled in the St. Lawrence River. 

A deep dive into the world of an outstanding creator
An original concept and production of GSI Musique, in partnership with the Riopelle Foundation, Riopelle Symphonique is a multisensory experience that combines symphonic music with the visual and performing arts.  

For Nicolas Lemieux, original creator, artistic director and CEO of GSI Musique, “creating a musical homage to Jean Paul Riopelle, an artist who was in every way larger than life, is the opportunity of a lifetime. But it is also a challenge whose full magnitude I had not quite grasped when I first began imagining Riopelle Symphonique five years ago. To bring this mammoth undertaking to life, I was fortunate to be able to call upon the immense talents of Serge Fiori, the off-the-charts creativity of Blair Thomson and the extraordinary finesse of conductor Adam Johnson. Together, these artists succeeded in translating Riopelle’s sensitivity into music by immersing themselves fully in his work and approach.” 

“I felt as though I were transcribing a dream where, like a spirit, I inhabited both Riopelle’s inimitable aesthetic and fragments of Fiori’s music,” said composer and arranger Blair Thomson. “For me, the musicians and singers are in this sense sculptors, using their bodies to bring to life the music that is my expression of the dream.” Thomson sees the audience as part of the creation of each movement. “It’s my hope that those who experience Riopelle Symphonique will feel the same sense of wonder, awe, uncertainty and purity of expression as I do when engaging with Riopelle’s work—that their reaction to the music will be deep and intuitive, much like mine when I see Riopelle’s paintings up close.” 

“The Riopelle centenary celebrations are in the very image of the artist himself: multidisciplinary, bold and rich in experiences,” said Michael Audain, cofounder and chair of the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, also chair of the Audain Foundation. “We are delighted to partner with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra to present a musical journey highlighting the artist’s incredible life and career. A formidable legacy of the centenary, the concert will give audiences a chance to immerse themselves in Riopelle’s world and witness the great master’s power and energy.”

Riopelle Symphonique Presented by The Audain Foundation
April 20, 2024 at 8 pm
Doors at 6pm, Pre Concert Student Prelude Performance at 7 pm
Box office: 604.876.3434 

  • Duration: 75 minutes (no intermission) 
  • Original Concept & Artistic Director: Nicolas Lemieux 
  • Visual Design: Marcella Grimaux (Noisy Head) 
  • Music: Blair Thomson and Serge Fiori 
  • Orchestration and arrangements: Blair Thomson 
  • Musicians: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra 
  • Conductor: Adam Johnson 
  • Choir: Vancouver Bach Choir 
  • Costume design: Marie Saint Pierre

Riopelle Symphonique: The Album
The concert series follows the release of the Riopelle Symphonique album, 2024 JUNO winner for Album Artwork of the Year. The music is performed by the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal under conductor Adam Johnson, with vocals provided by the Chœurs des Petits Chanteurs de Laval under Philippe Ostiguy and the Temps Fort choir under Pascal Germain-Berardi. All tracks were recorded at the Maison symphonique in Montréal by Charles-Émile Beaudin and Richard Winquest. Riopelle Symphonique is produced by Blair Thomson, Serge Fiori, Charles-Émile Beaudin and François Pilon. The album is available exclusively via in the following formats: digital album, HD digital album, signature CD box set and deluxe vinyl box set.

About Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Led by Music Director Otto Tausk since 2018, the VSO performs more than 150 concerts each year, throughout Vancouver and the province of British Columbia, reaching over 270,000 people annually. On tour the VSO has performed in the United States, China, Korea and across Canada. 

The orchestra presents passionate, high-quality performances of classical, popular and culturally diverse music, creating meaningful engagement with audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

About Riopelle Foundation
Orchestrated by the Jean Paul Riopelle Foundation, the unprecedented celebrations surrounding the centenary of Riopelle are a unique opportunity to (re)discover this Montreal-born artist who has marked the history of Canadian and international art. Featuring a wide variety of artistic disciplines, from classical music to circus, theater, literature, as well as with the participation of museum and educational institutions, the official program of the Centenary Celebrations gives rise to a multitude of cultural projects in Canada and around the world. Starting in the fall of 2022 through 2025, under the theme “One with Nature”, a constellation of prestigious partners have been contributing to making these celebrations – the most important ever presented in honour of a Canadian artist – a resounding success, promoting Canadian talent and inspiring new generations of artists through Riopelle’s impressive legacy. Discover the official program of the Centenary Celebrations via

About GSI Musique
Founded in 1983, Québec’s oldest record label, GSI Musique, has since developed a unique expertise in terms of designing and producing major shows and multiplatform projects. The company, whose recent hits include Riopelle Symphonique, Montréal Symphonique, Bébé Symphonique and Harmonium Symphonique, is recognized for its bold, innovative and unifying productions that distill orchestral music, the visual arts and multimedia technology into spectacular immersive experiences for audiences of all ages.


Media Availability
Interviews with Blair Thomson, Composer of Riopelle Symphonique, or a representative from the VSO are available by request. 


Source: Vancouver Symphony Orchestra 

Media relations: Cameron MacRae, Vice President, Marketing & Sales
Email: Phone : 604.696.4296