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Jazzfest: Groenland’s intimate and distinctly Canadian performance

By Janoah Willsie on June 30, 2015

As Canada Day approaches in the nation’s capital, I can’t help feeling a growing sense of pride for the funny quirks this country has to offer. The performance of Groenland, a band from Montreal, at Jazzfest Saturday night, had a uniquely Canadian flavour to it. Groenland, a self-described indie pop orchestra, performs all their songs in English, however when talking to the audience on Saturday, spoke uniquely in French. There’s something definitely Canadian about that.

Groenland, composed of Sabrina Halde on vocals, ukulele and percussion, Jean-Vivier Lévesque on keyboard and percussion, Gabrielle Girard-Charest on cello, Ariane Gruet-Pelchat on violin, Simon Gosselin on bass and Jonathan Charette on drums performed a fun, energetic and enjoyable set for an equally energetic audience. Their performance took place at the Laurier Avenue music stage, inside a huge canvas tent. By taking place inside a tent, the performance had a very intimate atmosphere. The music reverberated off the canvas walls and amplified the experience to make it even more enjoyable.

They started off their set full of energy. Halde and Lévesque looked especially happy to be performing, and I had no doubt they were enjoying every minute. The other members of the group were generally also happy and energetic, although during the first few songs Girard-Charest and Gruet-Pelchat seemed to lack the level of energy that the rest of the group had, which took away a little bit from the emotion of the performance.

Groenland’s music is full of great moments of six-part harmony, violin and cello duets, and flowing lyrical lines. Many of the songs they performed, most of which were from their 2013 album The Chase, started with a tender, melodic vocal intro featuring Halde, and then introduced the rest of the band, layering percussion, bass, keyboard, cello and violin into a powerful, well-constructed, and rich sound.

Unfortunately, the balance wasn’t always quite right during their set. Occasionally the bass and percussion drown out the vocal lines, or the violin’s volume wasn’t balanced with the cello’s during their duet passages. The blame can barely be put on the band members, as it was clear they were aware of the imbalances, frequently asking the sound technician to readjust.

The audience was a fun group of mostly younger people, who were very familiar with Groenland’s music, singing and dancing along the whole time. The band members looked glad to perform, and the audience fed off that emotion. Even when, at one point during a song, Halde couldn’t find the right chord on the keyboard, the audience cheered her on, and quickly forgave the mistake.

The band also picked up on the intimate atmosphere of the location, and in the second half of their set, Halde stepped off the stage to perform a song alone, without mics. It was a really nice touch to connect further with the audience. Unfortunately, the tent was a little too noisy and Halde decided to complete the song on mic, which didn’t quite have the same effect.

Groenland had great energy right to the end of their performance, and the audience was right along with them. After their last song “Our Hearts Like Gold”, an upbeat, inspirational song, they came back to perform two encore pieces to the cheers of the supportive crowd. It was a great way to end a fun, well-executed performance.