The 20th Anniversary of Chamberfest Cannot be Contained by Four Walls
After 20 years of orchestral & classical concerts put on every July by the Ottawa Chamber Music Society, it’s this anniversary event that will be the Ottawa Chamberfest’s most ambitious line-up to date. While asking around about which locals acts to see, I was informed the international talent simply can’t be ignored at this year’s festival, which runs from July 24 to August 7. It might not be common knowledge that the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival is the largest festival of its kind in the world, but it is! Over 15 days without pause, most days will go from 10 a.m. to curfew, and span seven venues for almost 100 performances. Small ensemble music has never been so big!
We’d love to preview all performances but we can only offer you Showbox’s Top Picks for the 20th Ottawa Chamberfest :
The Don Byron Quintet & Divine Brown will wow us with new sound on Friday July 25, 2014 at Saint Brigid’s Centre for the Arts.
Don Byron is an amazing clarinetist with a legendary creativity for finding what is said to be “a sound above genre.” This New York musician and producer will play clarinet and saxophone alongside Divine Brown, R&B singer and JUNO Award winner from 2009. We also have it on good authority that the powerful Gryphon Trio (well-ingrained in the making of this Festival) will showcase their music on Aug. 6, absolutely essential viewing! And if you’re looking for something that you’ve never seen before, we highly suggest Luminico on Aug. 3.
There’s a group of gypsy punks called the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, who will transform the ByWard Market into the eighth venue of the festival on Aug. 2 with a parade of music & busking. There will be tributes of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on Aug. 6, a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War on July 28, and a sonic & visual remix of the music and images sent into space on two golden records in 1977 on the Voyageur spacecraft on Aug. 1.
JUNO Award winners The Gryphon Trio are the Festival’s Artistic Advisors James Parker on piano & Annalee Patipatanakoon on violin and Artistic Director Roman Borys on cello. They will play at the Dominion-Chalmers United Church on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014.
Jacob Siskind was an eminent music critic who gave much to the Canadian and global classical communities. In his honour, the Siskind Snapshots will take place on every day but the first and last of the fest to offer 45-minute glimpses into the lives of new and well-known artists. These include life & art partners Michel Strauss & Maria Belooussova, the next generation of classical music with Cameron Crozman, Sheila Jaffé & Peter Longworth, the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, and many more! There will also be four Festival Galas over the course of the whole Chamberfest with the self-conducted young orchestra A Far Cry, the American soprano, Toronto-based Sondra Radvanovsky, Montreal-born, veteran pianist Janina Fialkowska, and Handel’s Il trionfo del tempo with light lyric soprano Amanda Forsythe, countertenor Reginald L. Mobley, tenor Colin Balzer, and mezzo-soprano Krisztina Sazbó.
Amanda Forsythe will perform Il trionfo del tempo with three other soloists and the Pacific Baroque Orchestra on Aug. 5, 2014 at Dominion-Chalmers United Church.
Not a gala, but definitely the event of the whole festival — Chamberfest @20 will be a variety of all music that has played over the last 20 years at the Chamberfest. There will be approximately 13 different ensemble playing a wide range of styles and hosted by Eric Friesen, it will be at Dominion-Chalmers United Church at 7 p.m. on Wednesday July 30. We also have to mention incredible accordion player Manu Comté with his tango Nuevo ensemble Soledad will be performing at Dominion-Chalmers United Church on July 26, their first performance in the nation’s capital! And finally, from Aug. 6 to 7, Ensemble Caprice of Montréal will celebrate their 25th year as an ensemble by paying homage to the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach during The Bach Summit. Sixteen works over four concerts, as well as the Brandenburg Concertos in just two days!
All tickets and passes are available through the Chamberfest’s online box office, at their physical address at 4 Florence Street, Suite 201 in Centretown, or at the following outlets: Ottawa Festivals, Compact Music downtown and in The Glebe, and the Cartier Place Suite Hotel.
Johann Sebastian Bach is Baroque to the bone.
Agalloch, Jex Thoth & Musk Ox @ Maverick’s
Agalloch, a progressive black metal band from Portland, OR, roused the attendees of Maverick’s into a mosh pit during their first show in the nation’s capital. “I didn’t know anyone had heard of us in Ottawa,” said singer songwriter John Haughm. “It’s good to see.” He said this despite the fact his eyes were closed most of the time, even when wailing through some of the most skull-crushing riffs & thunderous drums. The lighting & dry ice matched their elemental influences well, reminding us that the best place to hear Agalloch is from a mountaintop.
On their The Serpent & the Sphere tour, the fourtet have birthed their fourth LP release as a beast with many backs. Definitely keeping to their prog-metal and neofolk, they also have heavy instrumental tracks and as close to rock as these guys can get. The intro to their show is an interlude on the new album, written & composed by Halifax-native but Ottawa’s own Nathanaël Larochette. The rolling thunder and the lingering smell of incense created a good ambience, and the veteran metal band is no stranger to atmospheric sound: wavering guitar, matter-of-fact drums and the perfect amount of archaic verses can go a long way. This 19-year-old band is still pushing itself to create serious sounscapes, and with their latest album they’ve succeeded.
Jex Thoth howling at Maverick’s on July 3, 2014.
Jex Thoth was my first experience with doom/stoner metal. They’re a quintet from Madison, WI who burned candles and incense throughout their set. The pungent aroma and the caped figure of Jessica Thoth at the helm brought a psychedelic atmosphere to the evening. They played pulsing songs like “To Bury” & “Son of Yule,” with the help of a synth set on “organ” and the vocalist’s voice wailing with power. Often I couldn’t tell if it was the synth or her voice, and her pitch was perfect. Many new fans made, because most had Jex Thoth vinyls under their arms once they stopped playing. There’s beauty in these tracks that could easily be rituals of the live wire music embodying a human host.
Local prog chamber folk group Musk Ox were stoked to be opening for Larochette’s favourite band in Ottawa that night. They played two of the longer pieces from their new album Woodfall, with Raphael Weinroth-Browne making faces as he plugged his cello with authority and Evan Runge of Larochette’s band Night Watch laid out the violin. I’ve never seen a cellist headbang before. Nine years ago, the leader of this group never thought he would be opening for his favourite band after he quit Carleton Univeristy to become a musician. “Whatever you want to do, just fucking do it,” he urged us before the end of his set. In his case, following your heart gets you to exactly where you want to be, and there’s something to be said for that.
New Music: The Beating Hooves of the Musk Ox Fall Upon Us
Within the first five minutes of this album (maybe within the first two), I was taken away by the primal beast that is Musk Ox. It bears down on us all from far away, from a long time coming, and it will leaves its mark on us. The album Woodfall has finally been released two days ago to critical acclaim in most metal, neofolk & progressive chamber circles after a seven year wait from the debut self-titled album. The leader and classical guitarist Nathanaël Larochette birthed his first album with the help of Dean Watson at The Gallery Studio and a serious arsenal of classical & contemporary instruments. This guy puts the mental in multi-instrumentalist. The band has swelled and thinned over the years, but Larochette has remained the constant nurturer to his brainchild. Recently, he’s been invited to arrange songs for Agalloch, with whom Musk Ox will be playing on July 3 at Maverick’s.
The current members with Larochette are Raphael Weinroth-Browne on cello and Evan Runge on violin. Their synergy has allowed the sound to become more than the sum of the parts, which they’ve shared throughout North America & Europe. This beast has a progressive classical hand attached to a dark folk arm attached to a body that grew strong on metal and post-rock. It’s eerily good at making you want to write ferociously, if you’re into that sort of thing.
As I said, the beginning of the album grips you tightly. A Celtic expedition about to begin, more than likely into the pits of hell, and we are carried into the adventure throughout “Part 2 – Windswept.” The moving violin and chamber-like guitar transport us on the wind and into distant lands. My favourite track, “Part 3 – Arcanum,” was a friggin’ album on its own (and not just because it’s clocked at 17 minutes and 35 seconds). This hour-long exposition of raw talent was celebrated at the Mercury Lounge on June 6, 2014 to a lucky audience. Without having seen the show, I can tell you right now that I’ll be at Maverick’s for July 3. It seems to me that an album that can legitimately be described as an epic is something you should definitely see live. I will plan to be out of my wits with excitement and out of my head on the musk.