Good ReadsOn the Fringe with Chamberfest

On the Fringe with Chamberfest

On the Fringe with Chamberfest

Photos supplied by the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.

When scholars of classical music study discussed chamber music –defined as instrumental music played by a small group– it’s probably a good bet to say that turntables, klezmer-folk-punk and a DJ who goes by the name Skratch Bastid wasn’t mentioned once.  However, this music that lives on the edge of the definition is exactly what the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival plans to spotlight in its coming Chamberfringe performances.

Taking place most late evenings during the festival’s July 21 to August 3 run, these shows are designed to offer festival goers a chance to expand their horizons after the main performances of the night. Even the venues are unique, taking place away from the fest’s main hub of Dominion-Chalmers United Church in a cabaret environment that includes a few growler salon events where you can mix, mingle, and sample local food and brews.

Though the fringe shows (15 in all) feature some top talents in music today, they are outside the more traditional styles festival patrons might be used to if they only attend the main performances. Not everyone is going to feel cozy mixing their Bach with sitar, DJs and jazz but, for those who venture over the line, these performances are often joyous surprises that are the highlights of the festival.

Kid Koala_073115_Credit_Andre_R_Gagne_001
Kid Koala and the Afiara Quartet perform at last year's Chamberfringe. Photo by Andre Gagne.

Take last year’s performance by Montreal-based scratch DJ Kid Koala, for instance. Nufonia Must Fall LIVE was part film, part puppet show, part concert and all heart with Koala and his turntables being joined by a cast of puppeteers, a pianist and string section to bring to life the story of a headphone wearing robot and a lonely office girl. The performance was called “the top concert of the year” by the Ottawa Sun and those leaving, smiles beaming, bodies grooving and with warmed up hearts, couldn’t deny that had just seen something special.

So, go on, step over the line and into the fringe side of the fest. Ottawa Life shares some top picks of the series:


Spin Cycle
July 22, 10PM: École secondaire publique De La Salle |
501 Old St. Patrick Street | $30
The Afiara Quartet were part of the Kid Koala show last year and are one of the most innovative string groups in music today, a kind of Kronos with a Canuck tinge. They are back again –this time with Juno nominated DJ Skratch Bastid, to add another fresh spin on string music. Cellist Adian Fung knows a bit about exploring genres outside of his chosen instrument. He used to be a freestyle rapper.

concert-ladomLadom Ensemble
July 24, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
With a seed planted in the back of a music lecture at the University of Toronto, the Ladom Ensemble has grown into a group that has been described as much elegant as they are fiery. The acoustic quartet is inspired by the world and the music of various cultures is seamlessly woven with threads coated in classical melody. The result is a wide range of music that can move from soothingly sweet to fantastically frantic quicker than a blink. Toss in some bopping beats fit for a Parisian cabaret and you might find yourself dancing in the aisles.

July 25, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
La Nouvelle Scène is set to become a speakeasy as New York’s Attacca Quartet takes  you back to the Prohibition-era United States for some roaring 20’s in 2016. Don’t worry, this won’t be a dry event. You can listen to era house band arrangements and once-banned classical pieces while sipping a 30’s style cocktail created by the group’s cellist. No word on whether or not you’ll be able to bust out into the Charleston or Lindy Hop.

concert-uppermandolinUpper York Mandolin Quartet
July 27, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
One of Canada’s most creative guitarists, Kevin Breit has been just fine slipping into the sounds of the blues, jazz, folk and world music. His versatility has earned him a Juno and spots on recordings that have won 13 Grammys. His group, The Sisters of Euclid, have been performing in Toronto’s Orbit Room for over 13 years. Where do you go from there? How about putting down the guitar, picking up a mandocello, adding three more mandolins and the vocal silky smooth vocals of Rebecca Jenkins and carting the entire mix to Chamberfest?

concert-lbo2Lemon Bucket Rodeo
July 28, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
If you’ve never seen a Lemon Bucket Orkestra performance before you may just want to bring something to strap you down to your seat. Otherwise, prepare to be blown away and infused with the sudden urge to dance uncontrollably at speeds roughly equivalent to Mach 4. Thankfully, this kelzmer-folk-punk party band doesn’t break the sound barrier itself. They’ve been known, however, to explode into rollicking spectacles just about anywhere, including aboard delayed airplanes.

concert-dukelleingtonTribute to Duke Ellington
July 31, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
Somewhere in the world right now you can be sure something by Duke Ellington is being played. American composer, pianist and bandleader Ellington was a legend of jazz and an originator of many standards that continue to be worked into jazz repertories today. To many, he is the very definition of the genre, reminding us how “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)”! Ellington’s music will be performed by violin virtuoso Drew Jurecka and his own kings of swing, Jim Campbell (clarinet), Gene DiNovi (piano), Dave Young (double bass) and Glenn Anderson (drums).

concert-coopergayBlack Market
August 1, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
Baroque soprano Erin Cooper-Gay’s genre-bending vocals combined with the beautiful violin compositions by Drew Jurecka has been called a fusion of indie and classical styles, a sort of Radiohead meets Monteverdi. Sometimes, really, only hearing for yourself does something this spectacular justice:

concert-sultansSubcontinental Drift
August 2, 10PM: La Nouvelle Scène | 333 King Edward Avenue | $30
If you missed the Sultans of String’s performance earlier this year at the NAC with sitar master Anwar Kurshid you are in luck. The Toronto group has given you a way to travel the world without a single plane ticket, passport or need to change your currency. It’s a global affair where you’ll tour France, Ireland, Cuba and India with various stops in between on one high-energy, uplifting trip through song. With all the points on the map you’ll touch, perhaps the show should have been named Multi-continental Hop, because your ears will be doing a lot of globe-trekking. 

Full festival schedule available on the Chamberfest website where you can also purchase tickets for all of the above listed performances.


Ottawa Life’s Festival City Series will provide a unique look at some of your favourite summer events.We’ll go beyond the music with artist interviews, volunteer profiles, concert reviews and spotlights on the tastes, sights and sounds of the festival season. Your city! Your festivals! Your summer! Like a good sunscreen, Ottawa Life has you covered.

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