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Photo from Evensong Ensemble's Facebook page.

Evensong Ensemble deliver a strong first performance

By Alex Binkley on October 5, 2016

Ottawa’s Evensong Ensemble played its first public performance under the banner of “Open Heart Open Mind” on October 2 at MacKay United Church, just months after getting organized. It was an auspicious debut.

The Ensemble is a quartet of singer Leah Cogan, saxophonist Peter Woods, pianist James McGowan and drummer Jamie Holmes. These experienced musicians describe their goal as using music to create an uplifting experience that bridges musical genres including gospel. Their jazzy renditions of “Hallelujah” and “What a Wonderful World” made the evening and their other pieces had the audience clapping along. Their final numbers “Over My Head” and “Spirit Open My Heart” had most of the audience singing along. Among their other songs were “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Open Your Hearts.”

Woods is also the minister at MacKay United. He said the quartet wants to use music from everywhere to awaken people’s spiritual side and connect with others. He has recording credits in jazz, blues and rock’n’roll. He says the group is “looking for songs and melodies that lift us.”

Cogan is an actor as well as a singer, whose voice filled the church, while McGowan is a professor at Carleton and director of music at Trinity United Church. Holmes plays drums for a variety of Ottawa bands, has been nominated for a JUNO award, and has played all over North America, Europe and Australia.

McGowan played both the church’s marvelous Yamaha piano and an electronic keyboard, occasionally at the same time. He also did some of the singing. The quartet certainly had a lot of fun playing in the relaxed atmosphere of MacKay and will perform October 16th at Carleton Memorial United Church. Woods says they will have some different songs for that evening.

For more on Evensong Ensemble, follow them on Facebook.

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