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I’ve discovered “the best thing that ever happened to Ottawa” – the music festival, Music & Beyond. It first presented itself in July 2010, and the classical music and multi-disciplinary arts festival has been showing visual art, drama, poetry, dance, architecture, circus, magic, science, comedy, law, food, wine, and even yoga ever since. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the festival before it was over and was heading out to the next event on the schedule.

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Music in the lives of Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun and Marie-Antoinette

A night at the National Gallery of Canada dedicated to a Queen and her portraitist – count me in. This event was all about Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun, who painted Marie-Antoinette on the regular. History refresher; Marie-Antoinette was that Queen who everyone thinks said “let them eat cake” (although it was never actually proven), was married to Louis XVI, and was guillotined after The French Revolution. Thanks to Music & Beyond, I learned that the lives of both Elisabeth and Marie-Antoinette were filled with music, as was the Palace of Versailles. Walking through the various gorgeous spaces in the gallery, instead of looking at visual art, we were watching different performances, all from the historical period of Louis XVI. I was given an event map, so I could meander around knowingly. I began my evening by listening to Renske de Leuw, looking mermaidesque and playing the most beautiful classical music on the loveliest of instruments, the harp. The music completely complimented the area, making everything extra pretty and peaceful. Throughout the evening, audiences were mesmerized by the angelic voices of sopranos Helene Brunet and Jennifer Taverner accompanied by Frederic Lacroix on the pianoforte. The Rideau Chapel was the place for these performances, and coming from the beautiful Garden Court, it amped the majestic factor. The last full piece that I was able to listen to was actually written by Marie-Antoinette herself! I left to the sound of the pianist playing a composition called “The Queen’s Imprisonment”, written by someone who had a musical interest in the royal court.  There were even musicians in the cafeteria, playing the harp and the flute. The harpist, Caroline Leonardelli was very interactive, allowing guests to take photos of her and her instrument, as well as having guests try plucking that magnificent harp. Finally, in the Great Hall, we caught the tail end of the London Handel Players with dancers Jeremy Nasmith and Brooklyn Marshall. Again, a beautiful sound paired with the grace of the dancers.

Although the instruments themselves have improved since the late 1700s, the musicians attempt to play the music resembling how it would have been way back when. I couldn’t believe that this is the 7th year of this festival, and I had never heard of it before, although the total attendance in 2015 topped 38,000. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of classical music, but the way this event was laid out, Music & Beyond totally met their goal of reaching out to people of all cultural backgrounds and all demographics, with a major goal of building new audiences with a special emphasis on young people. So get yourselves to this next event!

Chanticleer: An Orchestra of Voices
Chanticleer: An Orchestra of Voices

Chanticleer – Saturday July 16 830PM Dominion-Chalmers United Church $10-$70

Tomorrow night, the last full night of Music & Beyond before the closing gala Sunday evening, feast your ears (and your eyes!) upon Chanticleer, a San-Francisco based male chorus. They’ve “made it”; winning two Grammy awards, being praised by The New Yorker magazine as “the world’s reigning male chorus”, and inducted into the American Classical Hall of Fame. Consisting of twelve male voices, from soprano to countertenor to bass, they’re known for their unique interpretations of renaissance, jazz, popular and contemporary genres. With newly appointed Music Director William Fred Scott, they conquered the 2016 season with “Mission Road”, an exploration of mission periods music from Mexican and Bolivian missionaries, and wrapped up in June with “Washing the Water”, a program of spiritually inspired music. Here in Ottawa, they’ll be performing “Over the Moon”, which includes music by some pretty cool guys including Gustav Mahler (one of the leading conductors of his generation) and Mason Bates (expanding the orchestra to include electronics), and celebrates the over the moon exuberance and strong emotions of such composers. Another really inspirational item worth mentioning is that they are committed to education; they run education programs that engage over 5,000 youth annually, with ongoing in-school clinics, summer workshops, and their Youth Chorus Festival. This past June they launched workshops for adults in Sonoma, California. So, hurry over to The Dominion-Chalmers United Church at 355 Cooper St. downtown and get a good seat, because it’s definitely going to be a first-rate show.

The closing gala for this newly discovered festival is being held Sunday July 7 from 7:30PM-11:30PM, and is themed “The Seven Deadly Sins”. In terms of Festival Passes, there were some different options. You could pay for a single event, like Chanticleer, or there were  passes for $180.00 per adult, $80.00 per student, and $50.00 per youth. There were also 3-Day Consecutive Passes, and 3-Day Any Day Passes as well as Diamond passes, and you can check out all of those prices here. I only wish I knew about Music & Beyond earlier as they held so many different intriguing performances. It’s a must when it comes to planning out your festival season. But don’t worry, there’s always next year.