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The Pandora Chorus in Concert, Saturday, April 23 

The Pandora Chorus continues to be a deeply fulfilling adventure for me.  In January 2015, after a decade or so of dreaming about directing my own indie-pop-rock choir, I decided to make the dream real, or at least put forth my best effort.  I had completed a program in Community Choir Leadership (with Shivon Robinsong and Denis Donnelly) in 2011, but I was unsure of how to blend this vision with the reality of being a touring musician.  I talked with Jenny Ritter, a fellow musician and rock and roll choir leader, who advised me to just go for it, saying that I'd find a way to manage it all.  She said many other encouraging things, including reminding me about the community-building aspect of choir leadership, which has proven to be such a gift in my life.
I rented a space, started working on repertoire, put posters all over town, and within a few weeks, I had over 40 singers registered!  The choir continues to evolve, and during this most recent session (which started in January 2016), I've been very grateful for the expansion of the Bass and Tenor sections.  The choir is sounding gorgeous, and our concert which will take place at The Church of Truth, a beautiful building with amazing acoustics and a grand piano. I'm excited for everyone-- the choir, the audience, and myself-- to experience our harmonies in a room designed with live music in mind. 
Advance tickets recommended.  Available at Lyle's Place (770 Yates St), or through Eventbrite.

Eventbrite - The Pandora Chorus in Concert, April 2016

Two worlds meet: The Pandora Chorus guest appearance with Shane Koyczan 

The Pandora Chorus, the indie-pop-rock choir I started in January, made our public debut as surprise guests at Shane Koyczan's sold out show at Alix Goolden Hall in Victoria, BC on March 27, 2015.  It was so rewarding and satisfying for these two projects that I'm involved with to come together in such a beautiful way.  As a member of Short Story Long, I co-wrote the music with the band in the summer, and then I arranged it for the choir, who performed it in front of 800+ people while Shane captivated us all with his poetry.  It was really quite something to witness a crowd of people who had come to listen to one person with one microphone speak from his heart.  In this age of technology, it was delightfully refreshing to be reminded of the power of a single voice speaking authentically.  The choir sang a cappella.  The Alix Goolden Hall is one of my favourite rooms to sing in, the acoustics are stunning.  It was a very different experience for me to be on stage, and not singing.  I conducted the choir, and co-wrote and arranged the music, so I definitely felt connected to the music as it happened, but it felt surreal to be partially responsible for sound that was not coming out of me directly.  I'm grateful for the expansion of my musical life, and for the collaborations that reinforce my sense of being connected to others.  This connection is a huge part of why I play music, and I'm thankful that the web of connection is growing.

Speaking of which, YOU can be part of the expansion, and hear The Pandora Chorus in action THIS THURSDAY, April 9th at the VCM's Wood Hall (907 Pandora Ave, entrance at 900 Johnson St.), 8pm. Join us for a casual performance and open class where you can learn more about our upcoming Spring session. It's a FREE event but you must RSVP online here. Feel free to share with anyone you think may be interested.

Hibernation is where it's at 

We are just a few days away from the shortest day of the year, the Winter Solstice.  I've been feeling the call to hibernate in my own ways.  This usually involves copious amounts of chai tea, and fleece lined pants (note that I'm omitting a photo of said pants... for a reason).  I'm reflecting back on the past year, which has been rich with new collaborations and performance opportunities.  April through October was a bit of a blur for me.  A blur of stages, highways, and new friends.  Tower of Song launched our debut album with a tour of Western Canada, and a tour of Ontario and Quebec in October.  I started working with Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long as a keyboard player.  I made my debut with the band at The Banff Centre in July, where we spent a few days recording before our show which opened with a performance by Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagaq.  If you haven't heard her yet, do it now.  Working with the band has been a good challenge for me.  I'm continually humbled by how playing fewer notes is sometimes what is needed most in a song.  And we have so much fun together that by the end of a 2 week recording session in June, during which we had spent every waking moment with one another, I didn't want it to end.  How many people can you say that about? I consider myself blessed.  My van parking abilities were called into question a few times.  Perhaps also for a reason.
Check out the video to the piece Shane wrote for David Suzuki's Blue Dot Tour, which features music by our band.
I'm working on new songs during my hibernation over the next few months.  In the meantime, I'm offering a few free downloads (in exchange for your email address) from my repertoire to keep you company.  Let's let the light back in.

 

Tower of Song debut album launch and tour 

I'm excited to be launching a new album, In City and In Forest, with Tower of Song, a duo with Oliver Swain, in which we pay tribute to Leonard Cohen by re-imagining his work in our own voices.  I've posted a couple of songs from the new album on our website, check them out here: http://towerofsongmusic.com/home



Also, our tour begins this week!  Here's our dates, find more details at http://towerofsongmusic.com/shows

April 23: Clayoquot Sound Theatre, TOFINO, BC
April 24: Char's Landing, PORT ALBERNI, BC
April 25: House Concert, QUALICUM BEACH, BC
April 26: The Hub 101, POWELL RIVER, BC
April 27: Heritage Playhouse (2pm), GIBSONS, BC
April 30: Hope Bay Studios, PENDER ISLAND, BC
May 1: Orca Showroom, DUNCAN, BC
May 2: Little Red Church, COMOX, BC
May 3: Fairfield United Church, VICTORIA, BC
 w/ Sara Marreiros, Steph MacPherson, shayne avec i grec, West My Friend
May 4: Phoenix Auditorium, GABRIOLA ISLAND, BC
May 9: Rogue Folk Club, VANCOUVER, BC
 w/ Reid Jamieson, Hilary Grist, Adrian Glynn, and  shayne avec i grec
May 10: Brackendale Art Gallery, SQUAMISH, BC
May 11: The Wicked Spoon, SALMON ARM, BC
 w/ Warren Hooley
May 14: House Concert, RED DEER, AB
May 15: The Ironwood Stage, CALGARY, AB
 w/ John Wort Hannam, Matt Masters
May 16: The Blue Chair Cafe, EDMONTON, AB
 w/ Ann Vriend, Ben Sures
May 17: The Legion, JASPER, AB
May 18: ArtSpace, PRINCE GEORGE, BC
May 19: The Occidental, QUESNEL, BC
May 28: Harvest Eatery, SHAUNAVON, SK
May 29: The Club, REGINA, SK
May 30: Village Guitar and Amp, SASKATOON, SK
June 1: House Concert,
QUILL LAKE, SK
June 5: West End Cultural Centre, WINNIPEG, MB
 w/ Nathan Rogers
June 6: Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre, REGINA BEACH, SK

Big Machine at the Alix Goolden Hall, and the new Tower of Song album 

This Friday, February 7 and Saturday, February 8, I will be joining Oliver Swain's Big Machine at the Alix Goolden Hall as part of the Gettin' Higher Choir's Seventh Wave Concert, a fundraiser for Power of Hope.  It's a real honour to share the stage with Big Machine, not to mention the 300+ voice choir (!) that will be joining us at this beautiful venue.  The concert is for a great cause, and I'm glad to be donating my time and energy to support the work being done by Power of Hope.  Advance tickets are recommended.

In other news, Oliver Swain and I have been busy in the recording studio with Juno-nominated producer Joby Baker of Baker Studios working on the debut Tower of Song album.  Richard Moody and Quinn Bachand are guest players on the album. What a pleasure and inspiration it is to be working with these amazing folks. Oliver and I will be touring in support of the album starting in April.  You can see our tour dates here.  You can also order an advance copy (or copies) of the album here.  Joby is truly a gifted producer and engineer, and has succeeded in helping Oliver and I capture the magic of our musical connection.  Yes, this album's gonna be a goodie.

Over the holidays I read I'm Your Man, the biography of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons.  It was one of those books that I never wanted to end.  Every time I opened the book, I felt like I was sitting down on a comfy couch with an exciting new friend who mesmerized me with surreal stories of their life and travels.  In the past I've read biographies of musicians where it seemed like the author at times got in the way of the story.  Not so with this one.  In fact, Sylvie Simmons writes with such an eye for beauty that her work really belongs in a book alongside Cohen's.  I'm grateful for her talent and research which allowed me to have insight into the life, mind, and work of one of my heroes. Check it out!

November news and gigs 

I just finished an awesome 2 week tour of BC and Alberta with Tower of Song, my collaboration with Oliver Swain.  This month I'll still be bopping around BC for a few shows here and there.  I'll be joining Julie Fowler for the launch of her new book, "The Grande Dames of the Cariboo"  at the Island Mountain Arts Gallery in Wells, BC on November 17.  On November 24 we're bringing Tower of Song to The Media Club in Vancouver, and we're thrilled that we'll be joined by David Newberry and Graeme Thompson. On November 30 I'll be back at Hermann's Jazz Club in Victoria as part of the BIG MACHINE with Oliver Swain, Quinn Bachand, Richard Moody, and Matt Pease. Find details on upcoming shows here.

In other news, I'm going to be heading into the studio over the winter to record the first Tower of Song album.  Usually when I'm really excited about something, I make a squealing sound.  You'll have to use your imagination.  "Eeeeeeeee!!!"  That's how I feel about the upcoming Tower of Song album.

During the tour we were gifted with gorgeous fall weather and the generosity of strangers, and friends new and old.  Everywhere we went, the weather was that perfect autumn flavour. With the golden sun, red leaves, crisp apples, and so many mountains.  Thanks to everyone who helped and listened along the way. 

On tour with Tower of Song 

On October 16 I'll begin a 2 week tour with Oliver Swain as part of our collaboration, Tower of Song (www.towerorsongmusic.com), a creative tribute to the music of Leonard Cohen. I'm excited to share what we've been working on with a larger audience.  Our tour dates are listed here.  Check them out and help us spread the word! We'll also be keeping in touch via our Facebook page.

Tower of Song continues to be one of the most fulfilling projects I've ever worked on.  The songs of Cohen just keep on givin', no matter how many times I play them.  After our show in Tofino last weekend, our host was playing Cohen on his stereo, and he said "I was inspired to listen to more Cohen after your show.  But you're probably sick of hearing it... I can change the music if you want."  And I said "No way.  I love listening to this.  You'd think maybe I'd get tired of listening to Cohen, but I don't."  I've always wondered what it would be like to be in a position as a performer where the audience always wants to hear the same thing... would I get bored?  Would it become a chore?  But this project has given me a window into that experience.  When a song is timeless, it's new each time you play it.  

Oliver and I have been spending a lot of time singing and playing together over the past year and a half, and we focus on vocal harmonies.  We can easily spend an hour going over a few phrases, slowing down each note, trying different combinations of harmony until we find that one that fits best for that particular line and song.  We're basically harmony nerds, and we love it.  And we'd love to see you out there.