It’s like listening to pure gold.
Ian Robb, Shelley Posen, and Ann Downey of Ottawa’s Finest Kind started singing together after accidentally sitting close together at a singing circle. The sound that their three voices produced naturally was so arresting they couldn’t help but look at each other and wonder if they shouldn’t explore working together.
That was decades ago. Besides being internationally acknowledged as the finest vocal blend in music, Finest Kind has established itself as the pinnacle of musical arrangers, demonstrating their “we vote on every note” methods at workshops and festivals all over the world.
And they are so funny. Their Freight and Salvage show on Sunday, Feb. 2, will be rocking with laughter and sing-alongs – get your tickets early.
They tell stories about the songs as only historians can, and they joke with an ease that comes of years together traveling and playing. The musicianship is breathtaking; Ian Robb on English concertina, Shelley Posen on guitar, and Ann Downey on bass and old-time banjo. But it’s the vocal blend and the painstaking arrangements that often reduce an audience to tears of joy.
As local singer Arlene Immerman puts it, “Vocal music, particularly British isles and US traditional songs … brings me in tune with the universe. This is my version of spirituality. And being able to sing with others in a room full of harmony enhances the experience. Finest Kind presents this kind of music in a way that makes me even more rapturous than that. They take the best music and raise it to an even higher plane.”
Vocal arrangers often fall for overkill – witness any a cappella contest’s excessive willingness to overlook true sync, true blend, for novelty. But Finest Kind puts the song first, always. Unafraid of stops, unafraid of unison, unafraid of seconds, or “jangles” as they put it, a word they coined to describe the more uncommon of harmonies. With Finest Kind, the song always come first, seeming to sing itself, and its context never leaves the room.
Start this year singing. Start this year with the community of people who know Finest Kind as the foremost purveyors of song. Consider song, if you never have before, as the cohesion that, over centuries, has helped communities worldwide to create true connection.
"...Finest Kind's set on the Saturday night was a flawless piece of work, an extraordinary melding of history and song. Three of the finest voices in Canada singing about our past and filling the dark and still air with soaring, glorious harmonies. In a set of splendid songs, Shelley Posen's "No More Fish, No Fishermen" was, for me, the standout. I have a recording of the song but to hear it sung from that stage, to that crowd, was to understand the passion behind the piece. A very remarkable band... David Francey, at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival 2002
Don’t say you weren’t warned. When the Super Bowl is over on Sunday, February 2, stroll down to Addison Street’s Freight and Salvage and check to see if there were any cancellations from what is sure to be a sold-out show. The next day there will be a few hundred people in town smiling from ear to ear at the good fortune of having heard a sound that will probably never be matched in hundreds of years. Be one of them.
—advance tickets available at : http://www.thefreight.org/ticket-information)