Earlier this month we had the absolute pleasure to sit down with the members of the “Trailblazing Montreal Duo” (CBC Music), known as Stick&Bow, Marimba player Krystina Marcoux and cellist Juan Sebastian Delgado to ask them a few questions about their lives in the music industry they’re taking by storm before they perform at Under the Spire Music Festival later this month.
Check out the full video interview on our YouTube channel or below:
Tell us a little bit about yourself—we want to get to know you!
J.D: I’ll make the long short, I’m originally from Mendoza Argentina, but at 17 I got a scholarship to study music at an international school in Italy for two year, which was very lucky. I decided I wanted to continue to study music so I applied to different places and ended up in Boston where I did my undergrad. Then I went to a festival in Halifax where I met the cellist Matt Haimovitz who convinced me to apply to McGill, so the following January I went and applied, got in and did my masters, which went by pretty quick so I stayed and did my doctorate in cello performance with Matt (Haimovitz) and focused on contemporary music and a bit of tango. I love Montreal so I stayed and taught in and outside of McGill, and was working on some various projects with Kristina and Stick&Bow.
K.M: I’m Canadian, I’m a military brat so I don’t actually know where I’m from. I’m Quebecois cause both of my parents are from Quebec but we lived all around Canada. I started playing drums when I was 12 or 13 cause there was always a drum kit in the basement, and it would follow us from move to move without ever getting played because my dad used to play, so it was an excuse to stop playing piano, and still today I hit on drums. I did my undergrad in Gatineau, which is where we lived at the time, and after that I went to McGill and did my masters, which is where we met. I did my masters in three years because coming from the little city,and then getting to the bigger city so we decided to do a longer masters. After that, I left for France. I went to Lyons to study with this great professor, then did an artist diploma and a doctorate focusing on the relationship between music and theater and how they work together on stage. Since just before covid I’ve been back in Canada, and since then the duo since then has really taken off so that has been our major project at this point, but I also do other stuff around as well, I’m working on a project with this elderly percussionist, but mainly what we do is focused on the duo. So when we met I left, that’s actually how the duo started. We would have to play gigs to pay the plane tickets to see eachother since Juan was here and I was in france. so we would play a gig or there but there and eventually we figured out how to bring a marimba and cello together cause there was only one composition for them together, so we really had to explore and arrange and find repertoire, which was over a period of about five years and then we decided yeah let’s do this.
What are some of your fondest memories performing and/or just being in the industry?
J.D: It’s really nice when you play for people who care, and you know you could play anywhere you know, you could play at Carnegie Hall,, which might be meaningful to you but if you feel that connection that’s here it really is at. One of the fondest memories was special to us. At the very beginning we organized a set of concerts ourselves in a friend’s loft and it was packed. There were like sixty people in the loft there for the concert and we had a beautiful reception after, and it was very meaningful to us. It wasn;t in a concert hall or anything, it was a lot of work and meant a lot to us and that was really the start of Stick&Bow.
K.M: And people still talk about that specific show, you know cause there’s an energy that happens also, you know you can play the best show musically but if the energy doesn’t connect with the audience well then oops, but yeah that was a very very special night. And another one…
J.D: That bar and lounge it was a beautiful beautiful place, with a lot of cool people
k.M: Oh yeah it was this really tiny hall, again we love intimate spaces so it was this, i dont know a hundred seater, it wasn’t even a seater we had to kind of maneuver a little, but the room was decorated with taxidermy animals from back in the day when you could have the head of a giraffe on your wall.
JD: It was for decoration so it was a little bit of a funky place to play a classical music concert but again it was full of composers we admired, and performers we admire and friends of us, and my sister was there, it was really nice.
As a performer, what has been the most challenging part of the past few years, professionally and personally?
K.M: Well I think for us personally, one of the biggest challenges, and we’re still here so that’s good, is that we were living in two different continents for seven years, and then suddenly I was back in Canada, and there’s covid. SO we were in the same apartment 24/7 after this very very long period of living separately. But in the end it ended up being a nice challenge cause we ended up having to know each other that way one could say. I think having families far, I think this is more for Juan, was definitely a huge challenge.
J.D: Yeah true cause I think you know, the world was paralyzed in so many respects, you know not only professionally. So it was the first time planes were banned, and we had all these new restrictions and no one understood, not even politicians, you know here in Canada, it was like what’s going on? For the first time in my life I felt like if something were to happen with my family I wouldn’t be able to see them, but even within Canada, I have friends in Newfoundland who couldn’t see their families for like a year, and that was challenging, for the mind more than anything, because you know we still have services and we’re fine, at least in Canada, Musically, I know it was harsh but we were still able to do things online, we were still able to get paid, and we had a government that had money, so we still have to look at the bright side of the story.
K.M: And that was more the personal side, and I think professionally speaking, I think what the hardest was…
J.D: Teaching online?
K.M: That. I did less of that, so I won’t complain about that side,
J.D: That was hard
K.M: But mine is actually, realizing that culture is in no way a priority. And I know we have a great government federally speaking, we have this really nice support, but you would really feel on and off over the two years that who gives a darn about culture, it’ll be the last thing we open, we’ll close the halls etc… . So it was this pingpong, and coming from France, where the halls were closed for barely two or three months and then people were in the streets saying no we need to get back to culture so we’ll do it in the streets, we’ll do things, we’ll try, and the governments listened, and it was the same thing in Belgium, this is probably what I found the hardest, was saying no this is what I love to do while seeing friends change careers, that was probably some of the most challenging things.
Do you have anything fun planned for your time on PEI?
J.D: A lot of things, just exploring the place more. We passed through once and loved it. We stopped and had lunch in Charlottetown, so it’ll be nice to walk around Charlottetown, but also go to the harbor, walk around, do some hikes, and yeah.
K.M; Yeah I think we’re gonna stay for three or four days after the show to see more
What are some of your biggest musical influences?
K.M: One that we refer to a lot is Nina Symone, I’m actually reading her new book right now that Juan offered me. Just because of breaking barriers. Classical pianist, who dreamed of being a classical pianist and then life didn’t permit it in a way so ended up being a blues/jazz singer. She never considered herself a jazz singer, She thought any black american would be considered a jazz musician so she did what she could to break that mold.And breaking those barriers you know, putting Bach into jazz and putting all these improvisations, and you see that in our music too, trying to find a way to really break that classical barrier and trying to see how we can do that.
J.D: And of course there’s plenty of good examples of people who have worked really hard to do something refreshing with music where especially in classical music it’s hard. We love the music which is true, but sometimes we get a bit bored,
K.M: Of the formalities not the music
J.D: Yes but of the music too, you know when you hear the Mozart concerto or Haydn you know which are wonderful, but when you hear them over and over again, unless you’re doing something very different as a musician, you might be criticized. So it is refreshing when you have people like Yo Yo Ma you know who kept one foot in the tradition but also doing collaborations and expanding beyond.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one album to listen to, what would it be?
J.D: That’s very hard, you shouldn’t ask that question, but probably Glenn Gould Goldberg Variations, that would definitely make it.
Thank you to our official accommodation sponsor Quality Inn & Suites: Garden of the Gulf!