Empty Houses


The Canadian Guitar Quartet opened the second half of Friday’s concert at the Matsqui
Centennial Auditorium with a piece entitled Empty Houses. Guitarist and composer Renaud
Côté-Giguère explained that as a boy he had believed his old homes would remain forever empty
after the family had moved out.

The four-movement work aptly displayed the brilliance of the quartet. By turns jazzy, lyrical,
quirky, fragile, and energetic, it evoked the complexity of emotions connected to the memory of
old homes, homes once full of joy and life and now bereft of the people that had made them

Listening to the piece brought to mind other empty houses. Concert halls, once so full of
melodies and harmonies, sat silent for the past two years. Stages were bare. Rows of upturned
seats bore mute testimony to absence.

Other houses, perhaps not entirely empty, nevertheless had an empty chair, an empty bed, that
betokened the loss of someone dear.

What pleasure, then, to return to the hall and to re-experience that which had become only a
memory. What joy to greet people we had not seen in months. What tugs of emotion when the
first notes of Mozart rang out. It is no wonder that the most often repeated sentence from the
performers on stage had nothing to do with music. It was simply, “We’re happy to be here.”
The pulsating rhythms of the guitars restored an energy that had been slowly sapped by just
another evening of Netflix. Our eyes were riveted, not by another chapter in another book, but by
fingers dancing at impossible speeds among the frets. Hobbies and crafts were set aside for the
syncopations of bossa nova.

This was no longer the memory of an old house, an empty house. It was a house that was alive
with the best of humanity, with virtuosity and sharing, with appreciation and amazement. But
most all, our hearts echoed the words, “We’re happy to be here.”

John Wiebe
The Valley Concert Society