One of the most memorable shows I’ve seen at the Ottawa Jazz Festival was a late-night concert by The Barr Brothers in 2012. The Barr Brothers were relatively new to Ottawa at the time, so it was a surprise to many in attendance how an art-folk band could bring the festival audience to a hush—even the bar staff whispered—as people around the stage seemed completely bought into the band’s impressive dynamics, ranging from the softest moments to the most powerful climaxes. The tension was real, and really paid off.
At the centre of their ensemble was Montreal-based harpist Sarah Pagé, whose virtuoso performance is part of what made The Barr Brothers’ show so memorable. Years later, I would have the chance to introduce my partner to the band. I scooped up two tickets on the same day The Barr Brothers announced a concert at the Museum of History and I couldn’t help but talk up the band, reciting memories of that extraordinary night in 2012.
The show we saw in Gatineau, February 2018, was truly excellent… don’t get me wrong… but something was missing. I had unknowingly bought tickets to the first concert The Barr Brothers would perform after Sarah Pagé departed the band. Their new sound and ensemble was worth the price of admission, however, I discovered that Pagé’s harp was what I went in for. We left the show in a good mood, although I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed for building such high expectations beforehand (“You won’t believe it… Their live show at Jazzfest… That harp…!”)
Flash forward and Pagé is now set to release her debut solo record on Backward Music, the experimental imprint of long-running Halifax label Forward Music (Paper Beat Scissors, Michael Feuerstack, Gianna Lauren, Dan Misha Goldman). She will be presenting the new album on a tour to select Canadian cities, which includes a stop at Cinqhole on Sunday, October 6th.
Her new record Dose Curves is a collection of experimental harp compositions, all recorded live, which is sure to translate to an equally stunning and hypnotic live performance. To achieve her signature sound, Pagé rigs her instrument with pickups and a variety of pedals, effects, slides, fans and bows. You have not heard the harp played this way.
For the album launch tour, Pagé will be accompanied by French-British composer Joni Void, known until now as johnny_ripper on Soundcloud, Bandcamp and in other online communities. On this occasion, the pair will also be presenting collaborative material as their new duo project Page Vide. Another duo, Nick Schofield and violinist Mika Posen (aka Merganzer), will open the night with a set of minimalist ambient music.
Sarah Pagé performs at Cinqhole (5b Fairmont Ave) on Sunday October 6, 2019, with special guests Joni Void, Nick Schofield and Mika Posen. RSVP on Facebook. Doors open at 8:30pm. Admission is $10 or pwyc at the door.