Rare Vancouver appearance by ‘national treasure’

Mary Margaret O'Hara by EvaBlue.

Mary Margaret O’Hara by EvaBlue.

On April 18, Vancouver New Music presents a concert that will include a rare performance by a singer REM’s Michael Stipe once called “a national treasure.”

To date, Toronto-based vocalist Mary Margaret O’Hara has released only one official full-length album, the critically acclaimed Miss America, along with a 1991 EP and a soundtrack (to a 2000 movie called Apartment Hunting). The sister of actress Catherine O’Hara (SCTC, Home Alone, Best in Show), she has also recorded as a guest backup vocalist and appeared in the 2012 movie Museum Hours.

But besides those gigs and sporadic concert appearances (including shows with the PuSh Performing Arts Festival in 2012 in Vancouver), O’Hara has mostly stayed out of the limelight.

So it’s a special treat – and a testament to O’Hara’s close relationship with local composer/cellist Peggy Lee – that a Vancouver audience will get to see her perform live on April 18. Only don’t expect to hear anything off of Miss America.

The final concert of Vancouver New Music’s 2014/2015 season, Voices & Strings features a number of compositions that explore “the essence of the song,” according to a press release, “from its origins including canzona, Lied and chanson, to its most creative assemblages and paradoxical expressions.”

The works include Les fleurs anciennes (2000) by Linda Catlin Smith, the Canadian premiere of Music for Orchestra III (2010) by Jay Schwartz and the world premiere of the Vancouver New Music commission Réfraction (2015) by Linda Bouchard. These will be performed by a string ensemble under the conductorship of Vancouver New Music Artistic Director Giorgio Magnanensi.

Lee and O’Hara, meanwhile, will premiere their original composition 2 Cans and a String Thing.

“With Voices & Strings, the intention is to create a poetic series of sound panels and songs, seeking reflection on the form to produce original work combining poetry and composition by these exceptional Canadian artists,” Magnanensi is quoted as saying in the press release.

“Commissioning new work by such creative minds is a means to focus in a very uncompromising way on both contemporary sound-thinking and composing.”

Peggy Lee. Victoria Johnson photo.

Peggy Lee. Victoria Johnson photo.

Hopefully, this will make up for not getting to see O’Hara do “Body’s In Trouble” (perhaps her most famous song, and performed earlier this year to an audience at the Coachella Music Festival by indie act Perfume Genius).

Voices & Strings
Saturday, April 18, at 8 p.m.
FREE Pre-show Talk: 7:15 p.m.
Orpheum Annex (823 Seymour Street, 2nd Floor, Vancouver)
Tickets: $35 regular/$15 students at brownpapertickets.com and 1.800.838.3006
More info at newmusic.org

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