Jazz fans can hear some of Ottawa's most accomplished jazz vocalists and instrumentalists on the same stage this Sunday from to 1 to 3 p.m.. The fundraising concert will be a 'mini festival' of discovery for listeners: an opportunity to sample eight different vocalists and a guitar-bass duo.
“I like the opportunity to share a stage with vocalists who bring their own style and interpretation to a song; as varied as a fingerprint,” said Sharron Timmons, one of the vocalists featured in the concert. “On the surface, we seem similar, especially as we all often sing from the same standards repertoire. But, upon closer listen, we all offer up our own nuances.”
If listeners fill Southminster Church (it seats about 400), “Sunday Afternoon Jazz in Aid of Refugees” can raise $8,000 for Ottawa Centre Refugee Action (OCRA), a grassroots group of volunteers who came together to help refugees settle in Ottawa. The concert is being organized by vocalist Geri Childs, who will also sing.
OCRA raises funds to support refugees resettle in Ottawa, as well as providing direct assistance. Since December, it says it has supported five Syrian families and one young man fleeing persecution in Gambia. The group's goal is to raise funds to support a total of twelve families.
The featured vocalists and instrumentalists are all donating their performances. The house band (which includes the popular jazz musicians Mark Ferguson, John Geggie, and René Lavoie) is being paid for its continuous work throughout the concert. Local 180 of the Canadian Federation of Musicians donated funds to pay for the band and provided a sound technician.
Musicians who are performing on Sunday have been active and had significant musical projects in recent years. OttawaJazzScene.ca has previously told you about most of them. In order of their listing on the event poster:
Roddy Ellias toured Canadian jazz festivals in 2015 with his latest CD, The Roddy Ellias Trio. The CD was originally presented at GigSpace.
Geri Childs released a CD at a sold-out Fourth Stage concert: Geri Childs sings about long-time friendship in More than Magic CD release (review)
- The Juliet Singers (Elise Letourneau, Kathy Eagan, and Rachel Beausoleil) have had several sold-out concerts at GigSpace and were also featured in the second presentation of Letourneau's Requiem for 14 Roses
Dominique Forest released a bilingual CD, C'est a moi at a sold-out Fourth Stage concert: Dominique Forest launches her first CD, C'est a moi, with verve
Karen Oxorn is well-known for her deeply-researched tributes to notable jazz vocalists of yesteryear, including a tribute to Blossom Dearie
Nicole Ratté, another well-known local jazz vocalist and teacher, worked with Oxorn and Forest in their tribute to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday
I asked several of the vocalists to tell me about what appealed to them about the singers they are sharing the stage with in Sunday's fundraising concert. Their comments might be considered informed, expert tips on what listeners can enjoy hearing.
“Dominique [Forest] has a pureness and accuracy of pitch that is unerring and her tone is always beautiful whether she is singing a ballad or an upbeat swing tune,” Karen Oxorn said. And “Nicole [Rattė] has a sense of rhythm and feel for a jazz standard that is always a joy to listen to and has a special affinity for Brazilian numbers as I had the great pleasure to witness in a recent concert.”
“Nicole's voice is pure and refined. She interprets a song so gracefully and with such skill. Her love of music comes through with every note,” Dominique Forest wrote of her fellow vocalist.
Nicole Ratté spoke about Karen Oxorn, whom she has co-presented major shows with. “I totally love the color of her voice, and she can swing!!! She is such a nice and funny person, very entertaining and always so interesting as she is always well prepared.”
Elise Letourneau said she loved “singing with my colleagues in The Juliet Singers, Rachel Beausoleil and Kathleen Eagan. They are gifted vocal musicians with great listening, reading, and interpretive skills. The three of us have a great blend and we sing pretty intuitively together. Collectively we have about 4.5 octaves and over 75 years of experience.”
“I'm very much looking forward to joining forces with my sisters in song - Dominique, Nicole, Karen, Sharron, and Geri - for this performance. They are wonderful women with big hearts and this is an important cause,” Letourneau added.
Sharon Timmins was already personally volunteering with the Ottawa Centre Refugee Action before performing in this concert.
“It's the first time I've been involved with helping refugees, and I just felt it was important to help out in any way I could. So in the fall when there was so much in the news about the state of refugees, I just picked up the phone, called a number I was given and just said I'd help out in any way I could. I was assigned a group and we've met since the late fall to plan and co-ordinate who will do what in the way of helping whatever family we are assigned to.”
However, she said, “I've not been involved in putting the concert together in any way - that's all Geri's doing!”
Organizer Geri Childs may be familiar to some charitable listeners. Next December will be her fifth holiday concert at GigSpace (it's already booked) where part of the proceeds go to a local charity.
In making Sunday's concert happen, she arranged deals from printers for the posters, and searched for an affordable venue with great acoustics, a real piano – and seats for lots of listeners.
“It has been a lot of work actually,” she said, laughing. “But good work, great work. Putting it all together. Finding the right venue.”
She had the least problem with the music: “I had no problem getting musicians to say yes.”In fact, she had to turn musicians away to keep within the available time slot.
“I think it's a great cause. That's why I got involved with it. What a wonderful way to welcome people into the country, especially when they've come from a place that's filled with war. We can't begin to imagine what it's like to be uprooted from their homes. ... Whatever we can do to help people in that respect, what little bit we can do is always worth a lot at the end of the day.”
– Brett Delmage
Sunday Afternoon Jazz in Aid of Refugees takes place in Southminster Church, 15 Aylmer Street (at Bank Street, just south of the Bank Street Canal Bridge / Lansdowne Park) from 1 to 3 pm, on Sunday, May 29.
Learn more about Ottawa Centre Refugee Action