At Ottawa’s Music and Beyond classical music festival you can expect to see almost any coupling of fine music and other cultural art forms and disciplines in innovative presentations. The idea, says artistic director Julian Armour, is to “give people another way of hearing the music.”
The festival’s closing gala on July 17, which will pair Music and Beyond with circus artists from Montreal’s Cirque Fantastic, is testament to that. Armour worked with Marie-Josée Lévesque, artistic director of Cirque Fantastic, to prepare a show of à la carte acts just for the festival.
Armour is a distinguished cellist who has been playing and promoting classical music in Canada and Europe for over 20 years. He is the founder of Music and Beyond and has received numerous awards for making classical music more accessible to people. He also promotes the works of Canadian composers and has premiered over 200 of their works.
Lévesque is a veteran circus artist who began her career with Cirque du Soleil and has branched out to bring circus arts shows to audiences in diverse settings and venues. Each brought their expertise to design this year’s show.
“I suggested music, she suggested acts, and then we tried to put maximum variety in what we’re going to do to mix in acts with actual music that relates to circus,” Armour explains.
“We did it two years ago and I have to say that was one of the most interesting things I’ve done in my whole life. I thought it was such a beautiful evening. People were bowled over. They didn’t know what to expect and they came out absolutely ecstatic.”
Cirque Fantastic was part of the entertainment on the Parliament Hill stage for Canada Day in 2009, a show that is broadcast across Canada. Their unique acts blend physical skills with fantasy and use both up-tempo and moody music to suit the scene.
Musicians from Music and Beyond include violinist Jasper Wood, violist Catherine Ferreira, Armour on the cello, and double bassist John Geggie. At the closing gala they will be joined by Germany’s Alliage Quintett, an ensemble with four saxophones plus a piano, to play Rachmaninoff, Paganini, music from movie soundtracks, and much more throughout the evening.
“We’ve grown each year and what’s been most interesting about Music and Beyond, I think, is that people are really getting into the “beyond,” says Armour.
However, he adds, “we still make sure we put on a lot of just great concerts and I don’t ever want to get away from that, otherwise it could be gimmicky.”
This year’s closing show, with its fusion of music and circus arts as well as an aerial ribbon act, reaches above and beyond and fits with the aim of the organizers to create a more festive atmosphere, thereby helping to attract a broader audience to classical music.
For venue and ticket information, visit: www.musicandbeyond.ca