Reviews

On NUTCRACKER NOUVEAU:

“Whimsy runs rampant through every note of Nutcracker Nouveau…Yet whatever nonsensical heights are reached by such brainy musical mischief are surpassed by the playing itself.” Toronto Star   Read the whole review here: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/music/2013/12/06/two_unconventional_takes_on_nutcracker.html

 “Nicolas Martin est musicothéquaire à Radio-Canada Montréal. Il est aussi mon complice à distance dans mes découvertes musicales. Je lui ai demandé de nous offrir deux coups de coeur inspirés de l’hiver et des Fêtes. Sa réponse: Keith Kouna pour son Voyage d’hiver et l’Ensemble Polaris de Toronto pour son Nutcracker nouveau.” Diane Martin (La musique parle), Radio-Canada

“It’s all silly, cheeky musical mirth that miraculously never tips over the precipice into the ridiculous… Nutcracker Nouveau is entertainment as well as a showcase of what imaginative musicians can do with even the most hallowed of traditions.” Musical Toronto Read the full review here:
http://www.musicaltoronto.org/2013/11/27/daily-album-review-23-torontos-ensemble-polaris-engagingly-cracked-nutcracker/

‘…They are all exceptional musicians, and play with both good taste and bravura (often a trademark of Canadian musicians, I have noticed)…delightful and endearing, in many ways a great record for children because it is lively and rhythmic, but adults are invited to the party too!’ Fanfare, 2014

“As it turns out, the banjo works great in Russian folk music, as does the musical saw…A must-listen!” Lira (Sweden) For the full review in Swedish, go here: http://www.lira.se/skivrecension/nutcracker-nouveau/

‘…a hilarious homage to the Russian master…a clever and entertaining blend of new takes on the familiar ballet themes intertwined with other Slavic favourites.’ WholeNote, 2013.  

“At the risk of bringing winter on a little early, I sat down and listened to your new Polaris Ensemble CD.  I love it!  What a wonderful and interesting collection of arrangements and sounds! Snow?  Bring it on!!” A fan and donor to the Nutcracker Nouveau fundraising campaign

On UNCHARTED WATERS:

‘Ensemble Polaris continues to delight on all levels – conceptually, musically and creatively…a musical cohesion and level of communication and symmetry that might not seem possible on paper, given the diversity of the elements involved.’ The WholeNote, 2012

‘I tried to pick out a few favourite tracks but couldn’t. They’re all just too wonderful. The excellence of arrangement and performance is enhanced by an avant-garde adventurousness and an aesthetic that’s both classical and folk, as primal as it is postmodern. The diversity of this music harks back to the patchwork culture of the European port cities that admitted all manner of sights, smells, and sounds from the cities of the world.’ Wanda Waterman, the Voice, June 2012

Full review here: http://www.voicemagazine.org/articles/articledisplay.php?ART=8409

“Just occasionally, something joyously bonkers and genuinely creative enough to reaffirm one’s faith in the music industry all over again comes along, and this month, this disc is The One for me; my latest ‘happy disc.’…Bonkers but brilliant.” Recorder Magazine, 2012

 

‘In truth it’s not how far afield we’re taken by Uncharted Waters that reflects Ensemble Polaris’ particular genius. It’s how the group leads us to re-discover what we’ve loved all along — a heartbreaking melody, a snappy dance beat — in the guise of some unexpected form.’ Peter Goddard, The Toronto Star  

Read the whole review here: http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/2012/02/27/wideranging_toronto_group_and _new_york_pianist_impress_in_different_ways

Polaris in Guelph

CONCERT REVIEWS:

DEFINITELY NOT THE NUTCRACKER: ‘…Sometimes the tempo was traditional. Then it would veer off into jazz, then popular, then country. The musicians were all skilled and experienced and, above all, having a great time communicating with the audience and one another.’ Barrie Examiner, 2014

WHO’S WHO IN VALHALLA at St Barnabas’s Church, St Catharines, ON, May 2011: ‘The emerging field of cultural tourism got a real-time example of its power with the visit by Ensemble Polaris to Niagara…leaving the packed house awash in musical colours…The eight-member ensemble played, sang and narrated through a covey of tales describing the lives, loves and longings of gods and giants…An instantly engaging mix of nimble guitar, svelte brushes, lithe recorder and loose, easy-going clarinet set the storybook table for Odin. Violinist Kirk Elliott’s compositional/arranging acumen (right to the last throw-away harmonic) had toes a-tappin’…at one point it seemed Erik Satie might be smiling broadly from above. As traditions are lovingly passed down it’s little wonder that so many works of art have a familiarity that—like many of the instruments heard in this performance—goes back centuries. Three cheers to all concerned…’ James Wegg Review (http://www.jamesweggreview.org)

VIKINGS ON VACATION at the Colours of Music Festival, Barrie, ON, Sept. 2010: ‘…fresh and so distinctively unique, it is a delightful surprise…The audience was intrigued as the artists drew from a vast array of cultural instruments, including a hurdy gurdy, a willow flute and a nyckelharpa…If one is not familiar with Ensemble Polaris, it is a group well worth investigating.’
  The Barrie Examiner

MARITIME TOUR, August 2009: ‘What do a hurdy gurdy, a bass clarinet, a set of bagpipes, and Norwegian lyrics add up to? A rocking good time is the answer, as I discovered this weekend when I discovered Ensemble Polaris…go see them if you get the chance!’ Audience member’s blog, Iona, NS

‘Ensemble Polaris was fantastic. It was a great evening.’ (Rodney Chaisson, Curator, Iona Highland Village, Iona NS)

‘This was an absolutely delightful concert of the highest calibre… The photo gallery of this performance can be viewed here with the track “Polska Efter Byss-Calle” from their CD “Vikings on Vacation” playing over the images. This was a wonderful evening.’
Stephen Kennard, www.shadowsandlight.ca

‘Their concert was not only flawless but incredibly engaging with the audience. So much talent, so much heart and such humility.’  Peter Miller, Musique Royale, Middleton, NS

TRANZAC CLUB, Toronto: ‘We heard a Scottish folk song, something tango-inspired, and a Brahms waltz. Everyone seemed to be having fun…After a few pieces I leaned over and whispered to Erik, “If I ever join a band, this is the kind I want to join,” and he responded, “I’ll join too.” Satsuma Art.wordpress.com

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OTHER CD REVIEWS:

‘While Americans seek fame and riches, leave it to their Canadian counterparts to make pure music…The musicianship is outstanding and the Ensemble plays with joy and wit. Even my children like this one.’ Customer review, CDUniverse.com

‘Wonderful music that refuses to be pigeon holed. Exotic instruments, accomplished players and great ideas come together for something quite unique. If you like ‘world’ music you will love this.’  Customer review, iTunes

‘Start your day with Ensemble Polaris and you will be on the path of delight for the entire day…The music is varied and evocative and the arrangements and interpretations are impeccable, by times, haunting and amusing. There is not much that is better than Ensemble Polaris.’ (Customer review, CDBaby)

‘I had never known anything about Ensemble Polaris until today, but now I am absolutely enchanted with the power, soul and beauty of their performance…You will not regret to listen to this Canadian ensemble!’ (Customer review, Amazon.com)              

On MIDNIGHT SUN:

‘This music is inventive. This music is full of passion. This music made me like the clarinet…’ Customer review, Amazon.com

 ‘While there’s nothing precious about their approach, Ensemble Polaris take a holistic view…Ancient songs with extraordinary words, laments and dances, are all reworked here for modern ears. The arrangements are absolutely spot on…’ Classic CD (UK)

‘Midnight Sun shines bright! This is very simply one of the best CDs I own. I like world music and this brings a special world to your ears.’ Customer, CD Baby

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