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Ottawa Baroque Consort's 'Beautiful Monsters' performance a fusion of storytelling, music and visual art

Monsters and Music at the National Gallery

By Lisa Wall

Christmas may be over, but “You better watch out” if you visit the National Gallery of Canada on January 25th, 2020. Why? Because… there be monsters.

In fact, Monsters are already on display at the Gallery, in a special exhibition titled Beautiful Monsters in Early European Prints and Drawings (1450–1700), which runs until March 29th, 2020. But on January 25th, the monsters will creep off their canvasses and come to life in a one-time performance in the Gallery’s auditorium.

The show features the Ottawa Baroque Consort, hosted by master storyteller David Brennan.

“This is shaping up to be our most dramatic show in our fifteen-year history,” says artistic director Olivier Henchiri.

Fusing three art forms, the performance alternates between stories, music and art. A full Baroque orchestra on stage and large-screen projections of the artwork make this a tightly-coordinated production.

Photo: The Ottawa Baroque Consort

The material is a new take on Greek and Roman mythology, written by Olivier Henchiri and Jacinthe Hudon. Ottawa residents may know them as the playwrights behind Voyage to America, Counterfeit!, and other plays. Jacinthe writes, “I loved listening to stories and myths as a child. Now I get to revisit them and add my own spin.”

Host David Brennan is a stand-up comedian and storyteller from Hamilton now living in Ottawa. The Consort heard him perform at a local Ottawa Storytellers show, and immediately tracked him down at intermission. “David was perfect for the part,” says executive director Lisa Wall. “His storytelling verges on the theatrical; we knew right away he could do the monsters justice.”

The fit was not fortuitous; it turns out David has had a lifetime fascination with monsters. “I was absolutely obsessed with the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a kid. I had the VHS, the book and even the score on CD. Working with the Consort and their selections for our Beautiful Monsters show really is a dream come true artistically. Little kid David would think was very, very cool.”

The Consort’s multidisciplinary concerts have garnered quite a following over the past few years. “People know they’re in for a powerful experience,” says Olivier, adding that “In a way, this brings Baroque music back to its roots: word painting, stirring the passions and moving people emotionally."

The performance is a matinee at 2pm, on Saturday, January 25th, 2020 at the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive. Admission is $30 at the door, $27 in advance and $15 for students. Tickets are available at www.ottawabaroque.ca, or by calling 613-400-1511.

Lisa Wall is a clarinettist and executive director of the Ottawa Baroque Consort. She can be reached at info@ottawabaroque.ca.