Megaphono Day 2: Andy Shauf, Merganzer and Fiver @ St. Albans
Photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox
Setting Wednesday’s Megaphono stage at St Alban’s, a relatively dark room with a single blue light filling the stage. A lighting arrangement that makes photos difficult for anyone, I was nervous I would spend the night consumed. I put my camera away. As the first artist started off the night, Simone Schmidt, also known as Fiver, brought with her detailed lyrics, telling stories as her voice reached all corners of the room. Well received by the filling house, the crowd listened intently to her set and the stories within her lyrics.
The stage was quickly turned over to Merganzer. Comprised of four musicians, instruments included a short keyboard and a violin giving way to many possibilities. Increased lighting made photographers hopeful, but I chose to leave my camera off for the most part and take in whatever Merganzer had to offer. Their continuous sound, as well as contrasting bass and harmonies left the audience in a trance. Having previously heard the headliner, the parallels between these artists were hard to miss. Carefully crafted lyrics, combined sounds made for an evening of core-shaking music.
Andy Shauf’s music holds an element of what I can best describe as a deep and poetic sadness. His carefully chosen lyrics paired with his soft-spoken demeanor give his music a cold radiance that vibrates deep into the audience. In addition to his haunting, yet hopeful stage presence, he brought with him a mixture of new songs that will be released on his upcoming album, and songs found on his The Bearers of Bad News album. For anyone who considers themselves to be avid Andy fans, they may have noticed connection between these new songs, and his earlier Darker Days album, or maybe that was just me.
He played to the now overflowing house, all there to see him, made clear when he played favourites and the large crowd was consumed by silence. He kept his conversations with the audience to a minimum, only giving hints to what his new work was inspired by, “here’s a song about dying and getting trapped in your body,” said Shauf. Slightly morbid, poetic, and beautiful, but Shauf brings it all together, leaving the audience longing with anticipation for his next album release.
At the beginning of the night I chose to keep my photography to a minimum. To take in what each of the artists had created without getting caught up in what minimal theatrics were taking place. It was clear that these particular artists were careful with their words, creating the theatrics within the stories and imagery given to the audience. Something not easily captured on camera.
Writer’s note: Despite efforts by many, it was not made clear if Andy Shauf was able to find a Burger King in Ottawa to enjoy a Whopper.
Throwback Thursday: Timber Timbre @ First Baptist Church in 2011
Timber Timbre playing at the First Baptist Church. Photo by Ming Wu.
Last night, Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars delivered a powerful sermon on the subject of reunion at St. Albans that took me back to my first concert in a church. Only three years ago, Timber Timbre came to town and played a very sombre set at Ottawa’s First Baptist Church.
Timber Timbre was then touring its Polaris-shortlisted album, Creep On Creepin’ On, which had been partially recorded in a converted church studio in Montreal. Their Ottawa venue reflected this facet of the record just as each dimly lit band member at the altar stayed true to Creep On‘s tone. I found it quite haunting to be sitting on a pew of a holy place as the dark, deep voice sang to us over melodies. The sound was quite loud, but the acoustics were absolutely perfect. As strange as it was to be seated in a sanctuary (since I’m not a practitioner of any religion), nothing was more eerie than observing the plaques depicting Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection on the wall while listening to music I love.
The entire experience was quite odd and wonderful all at once. I couldn’t get over how incredible the acoustics were and thought up endless possibilities of performers who could really make amazing use of such a setting. Since then, several artists have performed shows in churches all around Ottawa, including St. Brigid’s, St. Albans, Dominion-Chalmers United Church & Glebe St. James. I commend Arboretum Festival for making use of them throughout the year.
I invite you to imagine yourself in a gloomy basilica while you listen to one of my favourite Timber Timbre tracks.
New Video: “Offering” from The Visit
The Visit is Heather Sita Black, a vocalist unchained, and Raphael Weinroth-Browne, a powerful cellist. Together they form a self-described defiance of genre, so terms like chamber or polystylistic don’t really fit the bill. The closest long-winded definition might be experimental/avant-garde classical. The Ottawa duo have released two recordings so far and will be making their way to the Czech Republic in November for Nouvelle Prague, a international showcasing event of art from around the world. They’ve decided to share what they’ve been working on up to this point with their first video.
Nation’s capital music blog Something Always interviewed The Visit in March, in which they spoke hopefully of getting to Europe this year and to put out an album by 2015. We are glad to see that it appears that things are going the way they planned.
This expertly shot video in St. Alban’s Church was filmed in February by LOG Creative Bureau. An 11-minute foray into the untapped human voice and the complexity of a cello. The first two minutes are Raphael giving his entire body to his instrument, with his breathing as powerful as a musk ox in rut, and then to the vocalization of Heather’s attempt to explore how far her voice can take her into a song. She has perfect pitch and a seemingly intimate knowledge of her partner’s capabilities, but her body movements betray what’s really going on here — she is not making use of her voice, her voice is making use of her. The music possesses.
I’d rather not say too much about it, for fear of cheapening it. It’s beautiful and emotional. Have I already said too much? Res ipsa loquitor — the thing speaks for itself.