Drummond Medium Security Institution

Security would not allow photos of the tapestry of forest just next to the parking lot outside the prison, but we already did.  Think about those on the other side of the barbed wire and don’t feel restricted.

Julien, a 30-something with dark plastic glasses, a hat and a piercing on his lower lip was ahead of our concert.  He could have not missed his chance to use a real grand piano (as he never even saw one until this sunny afternoon). Now Julien was busy playing Bach and Mozart compositions on it. He did not bother asking for permission. He just walked into the gym and went straight to the instrument – Esmonde-White Grand Piano. All of us, including Lukas were quite astonished. It was not about how he played, rather that he played at all and that he enjoyed it. He never took lessons or owned an instrument or read notes. He played “from his ear”.  Actually, he did not give a damn about who was around him. He will be paroled in January and has promised to reach out then.

He then sat in the front row next to an inmate, who would not be paroled after 42 years of incarceration and, as his neighbor and another several dozen in the audience, would not move throughout the entire performance.

Julien’s “recital” was a shock, a gift, a delight, and a discovery. No one laughed. Professional filmmakers would have envied the unfolding scenario.  It was now Lukas’ turn to take full possession of the instrument.

English is not very popular in this part of Canada and neither of us spoke French, except our grand piano, which was manufactured and delivered in Quebec and which was outstanding.  Maybe that’s why Drummond in October did not seem to be as friendly and hospitable as Archambault in April. We felt that we imposed ourselves on our hosts. Mel Brooks would have shot the legendary episode of Dr. Frankenstein’s arrival to his horrific grandfather’s castle in Transylvania (from “Young Frankenstein”) in Drummond. Doctor and his entourage did not expect to be “welcomed” by Frau Blucher…. We were fortunate to have Oliver Esmond White with us, who kindly agreed to translate and thus much improved my clumsy traditional introduction.

It wasn’t funny. Confused and stressed out we were awaiting inmates in the gym, which was set up for about 100 of them (according to our hostess, 90 signed up) and about 60 showed up. There some other people in the gym – half a dozen of ladies (we did not dare to ask who they were and none of them stayed behind to talk to us, when it was over). We were told to get started without being introduced and had to obey the order.  The performance began.

Lukas played Chopin, Prokofiev, Ravel, and Desyatnikov. Inmates were listening extremely well (as usual); some of them – without fidgeting or movement, almost breathlessly.  Unfortunately, humble inmates positioned themselves in a circle (front and back rows were filled, but the middle of the hall was empty). It was an incredibly awkward place to perform, but Lukas did his best and the audience reacted accordingly. A few questions were asked during the event, but not as many as usual. About a dozen of inmates came to us with feedback forms and with their thanks – they seemed emotional and sincere. This was our prize and our win.  Our time was up. We felt we had to go and to go quickly.

Our second Quebec performance is now history. Lessons learned will make our next return to Drummond much more rewarding and fulfilling – sign up for our email newsletter!