The Rougemusic series that began last fall at the new Rouge Gallery location in the historic BMO building will celebrate the finale of a successful first season with back-to-back female vocalists — the haunting Eastern European voice and accordion of Bessie Wapp accompanied by Ben Johnson on the oud, santoor, and percussion on May 14, and the joyful soul jazz roots of Rossland favourite, Coco Love Alcorn, on May 17.
The Wapp-Johnson pair perform tunes from Bosnia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Yiddish material following the complex meters typical of the Balkan music, including the eclectic time signatures of 5/8, 7/8 and 11/8. Both musicians have a long history of musicianship, traveling widely to share their music and pick up new ideas from a spectrum of cultures.
Wapp, a Nelsonite, has traveled to her ancestors homeland of Lithuania besides her heavy involvement in Balkan brass bands, theatre groups, and Eastern European music ensembles. Johnson has been more imbued by Mediterranean, Persian, and Indian traditions, playing Greek music across Canada for more than a decade with the Rembetika Hipsters. A music major in percussion with a minor in ethnic chordophones, Johnson moved to the Kootenays in 2007 and is in high demand for his skills.
Coco Love Alcorn released a new album, Play, in March and is currently on a national tour, earning great reviews for her “extraordinary” voice, playful improvisation and wit. Receiving nominations at the 2009 Nova Scotia and West Coast Music Awards, and also at the 2010 East Coast Music Awards, Coco has earned a loyal fanbase during her numerous crossings of the country.
Looking back on the season, Rougemusic series organizer Nicola Everton was pleased. “Audiences have experienced an eclectic mix of music over the course of the concert season, ranging from jazz to classical and world music while enjoying the fabulous acoustics and gorgeous architecture of the Rouge Gallery,” she said.
She added that “it’s been a lot of work, starting from scratch with almost no funding.” She was grateful to all her volunteers and local business that have been “so supportive,” particularly the Nelson Brewing Company, the B.C. Wineguys, the Mountain Nugget Chocolate Company, and the Sweet Dreams Cakery.
She was also grateful the “Rossland audiences were very open to all types of music.”
“What really keeps me going is people keep telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the performances,” she continued. “It’s nice to finish off with two female vocalists who are both equally fantastic, but quite different.”
Everton already has some interesting programs lined up for next season, especially now she and the Rouge have the support of a CBT grant and some other grants pending. Some of next seasons performances include Celtic Harp Rouge with Jeff Faragher on electric cello, a Vancouver Symphony wind trio with oboe, bassoon, and Everton herself on clarinet, an evening of Jazz with Clinton Swanson and friends, and an “emerging artist” concert highlighting Nelsonite Natasha Hall, a violinist currently studying in Baltimore.
Everton was particularly excited that Ari Barnes, the cellist from Trio Accord, will be back back with harpist Heidi Kreutzman as the “Couloir Duo.”
“Those are two of the top players in the country on their instruments,” Everton said, adding that pieces have been commissioned specifically for the duo whose mix of modern and classical is “phenomenal” and “highly sought after.”
The final concerts of this season — Wapp on May 14 and Coco on May 17 — both begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets for Bessie Wapp are $12 in advance and $15 at the door, and tickets for Coco are $15, all available at the Rouge Gallery, 362-9609.