Ensemble Polaris

‘In truth it’s not how far afield we’re taken by Uncharted Waters that reflects Ensemble Polaris’ particular genius. It’s how the group leads us to re-discover what we’ve loved all along — a heartbreaking melody, a snappy dance beat — in the guise of some unexpected form.’   Peter Goddard, The Toronto Star

Photo by Sepehr Rassi.

Founded to offer a multifaceted Canadian voice for the ‘idea of North’ in music, ENSEMBLE POLARIS‘s innovative and genre-bending artistry won them international rave reviews of all kinds, from an Amazon.com customer’s “I dare you not to love this music!” to selection as the Best New Disc of 2012 from KMUW-FM’s award-winning show Global Village.

Comprised of seven expert performers from a variety of musical traditions and backgrounds, Polaris incorporated an eclectic palette of influences in their music, and performed on traditional instruments from Scandinavia, percussion from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and other instruments from the folk, classical and early music worlds. Accompanied song made up about one-quarter of their programming, and their creative process was a feisty mixture of individual and collaborative arrangement, improvisation, and composition.

The band members were Marco Cera (guitar, banjo, mandolin);  Margaret Gay (cello); Kirk Elliott (violin, accordion, mandolin, Swedish pipes, bouzouki and more);  Katherine Hill (nyckelharpa, voice);  Colin Savage (clarinet, bass clarinet, recorders);  Alison Melville (traverso, recorders, seljefløyte); and Jeff Wilson (percussion, musical saw). They were sometimes joined by Debashis Sinha (percussion); Ben Grossman (hurdy gurdy, vibraphone), and David Woodhead (guitars, banjo, mandolin).

Their first performance took place at the 1997 Northern Encounters Festival, after which they performed at the Salle Pierre Mercure for Radio-Canada, Luminato Festival, Music at Sharon, River Run Centre, Barrie Colours of Music, Chamber Music Mississauga, Gallery Players of Niagara and many others, and on tour to audiences in Western and Atlantic Canada. They self-presented occasional evening and school concerts in their home base of Toronto, performed in conjunction with silent film, traditional dance and other art forms, and worked collaboratively with diverse groups including the Canadian Children’s Dance Theatre, Viva! Youth Choir, the University of Toronto’s Jackman Series and the Association for the Advancement of Scandinavian Studies. Other more recent shows included a collaborative venture with Ryerson University’s Image Arts Department (May 16/15), and with the Toronto Silent Film Festival in April 2016.

Much of their self-presented work was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and Toronto Arts Council, with recordings also supported by FACTOR, the CCA and OAC.

Discography: Midnight Sun, Not Much is Worse than a Troll, Vikings on Vacation, Uncharted Waters, Nutcracker Nouveau, and From Iceland to the Moon. Purchase links for these are available at Pipistrelle Music, on this page: https://pipistrellemusic.com/ensemble-polaris/