IL Voce has ‘wow’ factor

PORT HARDY — Into the sliver of silence between the final note of a soprano duet and the rousing applause of the audience, a single, awestruck word escaped from a woman at the Civic Centre Saturday night.

Soprano Melody Mercredi and baritone DJ Calhoun share a tender moment in their duet La Vie en Rose during the IL Voce concert Saturday night.

PORT HARDY — Into the sliver of silence between the final note of a soprano duet and the rousing applause of the audience, a single, awestruck word escaped from a woman at the Civic Centre Saturday night.

“Wow.”

It was wows all around as the vocal quartet IL Voce headlined a wildly successful evening for the North Island Concert Society in its second event of the 2010-11 season.

Society directors came into the day unsure what to expect from the night, and all the pieces were in place for potential disappointment: it was the first show after the budget-depleting holidays; it featured a unknown, recently formed group with no recordings to its credit; and it showcased a classical/operatic vocal act of the type NICS has not brought to the North Island for nearly a decade.

But in the minutes before showtime, NICS volunteers were scrambling to put out extra chairs for a crowd that exceeded 250. And those patrons got everything they came for from a quartet of young singers who should have a bright future in the classical crossover genre that blends opera, musical theatre, classical and contemporary songs.

The quartet featured Port Hardy native Melody Mercredi and fellow soprano Tiffany Desrosiers, along with tenor Marc Devigne and baritone DJ Calhoun. The four, backed by the accompaniment of veteran session keyboardist and arranger Dave Pickell, bring a variety of individual talents to the stage, and each was featured in a mix of solo, duet and full harmonic arrangements.

Mercredi and Calhoun, both of whom perform for Vancouver Opera, are classically trained opera singers. Desrosiers and Devigne come from a pop/showtunes background. The dichotomy between these styles was showcased in a unique and humorous rendition of Eduardo di Capua’s O Sole Mio, in which Mercredi and Calhoun sang in operatic Italian, Desrosiers and Devigne sang in English in a bright pop style, with the pairs alternating verses in a “battle of the bands” approach.

That number, the last before intermission, drew whoops from the crowd and cemented a relationship between the audience and the performers that only solidified through the second act.

The concert included plenty of popular contemporary songs. Desrosiers worked the stage comfortably in a solo rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and sang a breathy Once Upon a December from the Disney film Anastasia, Devigne augmented his solid tenor work with a clean falsetto and strong modulation control on Josh Groban’s February Song, and Calhoun broke from type to cover Groban’s hit You Raise Me Up.

But even the opera selections were accessible, drawing from songs made popular in film or commercials, including Nella Fantasia (from Ennio Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe in the 1986 film The Mission) and Mercredi’s solo of Puccini’s aria O Mio Babbino Caro. Mercredi also snuggled with Calhoun in a crowd-pleasing duet of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose, which the pair sang in both French and English.

The group was put together by Vancouver-based Dexter Entertainment to capitalize on the classical crossover style popularized by acts like Groban, the Canadian Tenors and Il Divo. Saturday’s concert proved two things: that there is a market for this music; and that IL Voce is capable of carrying a show. The only disappointment for patrons came when they approached the table for the Decadent Desserts and raffle basket fundraisers to buy a CD, and found the group has not yet recorded.

Otherwise, the response of North Islanders to IL Voce Saturday could by summed up as “Viva IL Voce!”

Or, if you prefer, “Wow.”

The next event on the NICS schedule will feature the 18-piece Georgia Strait Big Band in the society’s annual dinner show Feb. 12.

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