Ice Storm Symphony

Photo by Nadia Zheng

Historical Context

In the winter of 1998, one of the worst natural disasters in Canada’s history literally fell from the sky. A sea of ​​ice spread from Eastern Ontario to the New Brunswick border and paralyzed all of Southern Quebec.

This “ice storm crisis” left half of Quebecers in total darkness.

Inspired above all by the light that sprung from this darkness, as well as the courage and humanity that emanated from the crisis, Quebec composer Maxime Goulet is creating the Ice Storm Symphony to commemorate the 25th anniversary of this historic event. The work will therefore be premiered in 2023.


A Four-Movement Symphony

The work evokes various aspects of the ice storm and gives the public an opportunity to remember its highlights. It will also serve to raise public awareness about the importance of our ecosystem, as well as the fragile position in which humans can find themselves while facing climate change. It will shed light on the responsibility we have vis-à-vis our environment and our planet. At the same time, this creation will be inspired by various examples of great generosity experienced through the crisis, reminding us of how empathetic and heroic we can be.

The four movements of the symphony will correspond to four themes of the crisis:

I – Turmoil
Dramatic and threatening music will gradually increase in tension and announce the beginning of the storm. Several musical effects will evoke, among other things, the cold wind, the drops of ice, the trees and pylons falling underneath the weight of the ice. The movement will be reminiscent of both the weather turmoil and the emotional turmoil of the people who lived through the storm.

2 – Warmth
During the crisis, several people sought refuge with family members or friends who still had electricity or a fireplace. For many of them, the welcoming homes and reunions warmed their bodies as much as their hearts. Instead of a minuet or a scherzo, the second movement will be a Quebec folk reel of a sort. This movement will recall evenings in the good old days when people used to gather around a fire. It will also reflect the precious and necessary overall support that emanated from the storm.

3 – Darkness
One of the peculiarities of the ice storm crisis was the total darkness that prevailed at night because of the absence of city lights. The third movement of the symphony, with its soft and mysterious music, will make us feel a dreamlike calmness. It will be a testimony to the beauty of the starry sky and the feeling of ultimate vulnerability that seized us during those dark nights. Our general paralysis will be transcribed in the music, creating the impression that time has stopped. For this movement, the stage lights will be turned off in order to bring the audience back to its memories of darkness (musicians will be using stand lights). The movement will also be a tribute to those who died during the crisis and will serve as a moment of contemplation.

4 – Light
The final movement will be a great crescendo of positive energy that represents the return of electricity, light and normal life. Throughout the movement, the stage lights will turn back on, one section at a time, as the instruments start playing again, as was the case in the houses that were gradually lighting up again, sector by sector. The movement will be pulsed by snare rhythms, reminiscing the army that was deployed to lend a hand. As always, in times of disaster, misfortune comes and goes, but people stick together and what remains above all are stories of great strength and resilience.


Instrumentation: 2222 / 4231 / hrp / timp+2 / strings

Duration: 35 minutes

Commissioned by the Orchestre classique de Montréal, ROCO, the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, the Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke, and Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières.

Premiere: Summer of 2023, by the Orchestre classique de Montréal and Boris Brott.

Media coverage of Ice Storm Symphony

Interview with Maxime Goulet about his upcoming Ice Storm Symphony, on Global News

Interview with Maxime Goulet about his upcoming Ice Storm Symphony, on Météo Média

Interview with Maxime Goulet about his upcoming Ice Storm Symphony, by Katerine Verebely.

Performances of Ice Storm Symphony

Season 2023-2024 | Orchestre symphonique de Trois-Rivières, Jean-Claude Picard | Trois-Rivières, QC, Canada | Complete symphony
Season 2023-2024 | Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke, Stéphane Laforest | Sherbrooke, QC, Canada | Complete symphony

Summer 2023 | Orchestre classique de Montréal, Boris Brott | Montreal, QC, Canada | Complete symphony (official premiere)
Fall 2023 | Orchestre symphonique de Sherbrooke, Stéphane Laforest | Sherbrooke, QC, Canada | Excerpt of the symphony’s 4th movement (premiere)

Fall 2021 | ROCO | Houston, TX, United States | 1st movement of the symphony (premiere)

2021, Mar. 31 to Apr. 13 | Orchestre symphonique de Laval, Alain Trudel | Online concert | 2nd movement of the symphony (premiere)