Making Magic Work: musica intima casts a spell


by Sue Morhun

“Wow! Wasn’t that wonderful?” This was the shared sentiment Friday evening at the end of an amazing choral performance by musica intima, an eight person a cappella vocal ensemble. It was an evening that wowed everyone, sending us home thrilled with what a well trained voice can do all on it’s own, unaccompanied.

It was a privilege to hear multi-talented musicians in an intimate setting doing what they love best; singing together simply, purely and with great joy. Their virtuoso performance offered up a diverse and musically complex program well beyond the formal choral tradition many expected. The ensemble humorously mixed musical notes with unexpected animal sounds in “Le Chant Des Oyseaux”, delighted us with “Punjabi Market”, an unusual blend of Celtic and Punjabi styles, and then nearly made us weep with the sweet sounds of “Goin’ Home” and “Loch Lomond”. Our feet tapped in time with lusty vocal Spanish guitar rhythms in “El Paisanito”, a piece in sharp contrast to a naughty and hugely funny Estonian “Vepsian Paths” where the word “goick” (“That’s all!”) punctuated the end of each set. Yes, they moved us in many different ways.

One has to remark on more than just the incredible quality of the ensemble’s voices, their superb breath control and confident way of singing complicated pieces. It was not easy music to perform and they left those of us who do sing in awe. Someone described it succinctly as “vocal gymnastics”. Complex rhythms had to be precise, discordant parts held firmly and pitch perfect and with all eight voices blended. When they layered their musical story telling with simple, effective choreography it could have been distracting. It wasn’t. It allowed us to hear – and see – voices

I loved it all but the real highlight for me were three pieces reminding us of Canada’s First Nations rich traditional music and their connection to the natural world. The “Salish Funeral Song” was especially haunting in its delivery, done effectively and well. Perhaps best of all were three short musical passages by Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer who, inspired during a camping trip in Ontario, combined wolf howls, and buzzing bees with reminders of First Nations chants. It all came together in “Magic Songs” with subtle an exhortation to mankind to make nature’s magic work.individually as well as in different combinations within the whole. It was magic.

musica intima needed no inspiring chant to make their brand of songs work. What they do with their voices is, indeed, magical. Wow!

Next up with South Okanagan Concert Society: Khac Chi: Vietnamese Bamboo Music.  Friday January 17, Oliver Alliance Church at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at Beyond Bliss (Oliver), Imperial Office Pro (Osoyoos) and at the door., $60 4-way flex pass, $20 per single ticket. Students 17 and under FREE admission.