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The Lemon Bucket Orkestra: a dancing good time (review)

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra never stopped moving from first appearing on the back balcony until they marched off the stage. ©Brett Delmage, 2013

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra
Ottawa Chamberfest
St. Brigid's Centre for the Arts and Humanities
Saturday, August 3, 2013 – 11 p.m.

View photos of this concert

The Lemon Bucket Orkestra is a large group of musicians from Toronto – some of whom also play jazz – who play music inspired by folk dances and songs from Eastern Europe. They sing in Ukrainian, Roumanian, Slovakian, and other languages, accompanied by a wide variety of brass and woodwind instruments (including sousaphone), accordion, fiddle, Jews-harp, and a few I'd never seen before.

That description sounds very earnest, which is totally incorrect: the Orkestra is about as crowd-pleasing as you can get, mugging for the listeners, dancing all about about the stage (one of its members, Stephania Woloshyn, is a talented folk and belly dancer as well as a singer), and performing with a great deal of oompah. They are seriously wild men and women.

That afternoon while playing in the ByWard Market, they had met up with a local music fan who owned a (very placid) black rock snake, patterned in pink and brown and beige, and a bit over a metre in length. For one number that evening, Woloshyn sang and danced with the snake in several coils around her shoulders. He did not seem to be disturbed by the music, then or later back with his owner.

Was it jazz? Not precisely, although there were places where the interaction among the instruments had a jazz sensibility, especially the clarinet, saxophone, and trumpet, and there were touches of gypsy jazz. It was more post-punk folk music, but great fun.

Not far into the show, the Orkestra already had attracted dancers out of the audience, sometimes at the front right side of the floor, sometimes on the stage. By the end, the whole front part of the audience was dancing, and there were repeated episodes of serious floor-thumping – and a standing ovation,

The Orkestra ended their 100-minute show by parading off the stage, still playing, dancing in the middle of the aisle, and drawing in audience members to dance with them. Closing the show, they sang a Canadian number as a last encore: Stan Roger's “Barrett's Privateers”, sharing out the verses among the Orkestra, and with the chorus shouted out by everyone and echoing off the arched ceiling.

    – Alayne McGregor

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All images ©Brett Delmage, 2013
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