Independent in Ottawaby Natasha Gauthier
/ November 1, 2011
Flash version here.
It’s not easy being
a musician in Ottawa. Like Washington, D.C, our nation’s capital abounds
in large, well-funded, symbolic institutions of national pride, but
struggles to cultivate the smaller, more diverse, homegrown groups that
make cities like Montreal or Vancouver so culturally vibrant.
The National Arts
Centre dance season, for example, imports the best international companies
and productions in the world—yet Ottawa has no professional dance
company with a regular season, be it ballet, modern or contemporary.
The presence of showcase federal museums like the National Gallery and
Museum of Civilization make it difficult for smaller galleries to get
noticed. Opportunities for musicians who don’t play with the National
Arts Centre Orchestra can be limited, especially if they want to perform
in a genre—such as early or contemporary music —that isn’t mainstream
orchestral or chamber music.
Andrew Burn is trying
to change that. The 22-year-old Ottawa bassoonist has founded a new
historically-informed group that he hopes will inspire other local musicians
to carve out their own space.
“I think Ottawa
can potentially have just as much musical talent as bigger cities like
Montreal or Toronto,” says Burn, who is in the final year of a B.
Mus at Carleton University, specializing in both modern and baroque
bassoon. “The difference here is that there’s a lack of artists
who are entrepreneurs. Especially the younger musicians. Outside the
NACO, the only musicians who are successful are 45 and older. The younger
ones don’t see a way to break in, so they leave and they don’t come
Burn could have joined
the exile, trying to win an orchestra audition in North America or Europe.
Instead he’s launched Ensemble OVO, which stands for “Our Very Own.”
The group’s core is made up of Burn, harpsichordist Marie Bouchard
and soprano Anne-Sophie Neher. Burn will augment the trio with additional
musicians as programming requires.
“Ottawa has the
Ottawa Baroque Consort, but it’s not regular work, and they have scheduling
issues,” Burn notes. “Meaning that they’ll work around the schedules
of other groups in Montreal or Quebec City or Toronto that their members
play in. With OVO, I wanted a group that people would eventually schedule
An ambitious goal,
perhaps, for a group that has yet to give its first official concert.
But Burn is nothing if not optimistic.
“If you want young
musicians to stay, the only solution is to show that there’s variety
and movement in the music scene. People told me a market like Ottawa,
where the audience is more traditional, couldn’t support two period
instrument groups. But I think it’s good to have competition.”
Ensemble OVO gave
their first concert on October 21, with a program of French Baroque
rarities. Burn says he will present present two more concerts this season,
although he wasn’t able to share details yet. His goal is to build a
resumé that will allow the group to qualify for provincial and federal
arts council funding (in general, applicants must have been active for
at least three conscutive years, with a minimum of three concerts a