PORT HARDY—The Vancouver-based string trio Infinitus takes its name from a latin word meaning boundless or limitless.
Those modifiers certainly fit the musicians, whether describing their playlist or the sheer variety of sounds they produce in pursuit of their art.
Infinitus closed out the North Island Concert Society’s 14th season Saturday with a well-received show of music that covered material from 18th-century composer Johann Sebastian Bach to today’s hot boy-band sensation, One Direction.
Easily straddling the line between two apparently opposing genres, Infinitus excels across a wide age range of listeners while mixing traditional classical string-work with beat-boxing (percussive voice fills), plucking, whistling and other noises that at times defy description.
From the opening number Saturday, the trio of violinist John “Adidam” Littlejohn, cellist Alex Cheung and his twin brother, viola player Anthony Cheung, sucked the crowd in and never let go.
They quickly enlisted audience participation for their original composition, Infinitus Anthem — not with traditional hand-clapping, but with a leg-slapping, stomp-clapping combination to go with the up-tempo, beatbox number.
Later, Littlejohn coaxed the crowd into a simple finger-snapping fill for the group’s airy treatment of the traditional hymn Give Thanks, which closed the program.
In between, the musicians had a little something for almost everybody.
After the opening Anthem, the first set was given over to traditional classical music. For the Port Hardy show, the group chose the String Trio of early 20th-century composer Jean Cras, who had the unusual distinction of also serving as a naval admiral. His four-movement piece, which took up the rest of the set, clearly evokes both coastal life and travel at sea, and it proved a brilliant choice for the trio.
The second act kicked off, without preamble, with a brief version of One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful, a specific request from the teen daughter of former NICS chair Shawn Gough. When Littlejohn asked the audience if any of them saw the group’s school outreach shows on the North Island last year, one fan yelled out “Harry Potter!”
Without hesitation, the group launched into Hedwig’s Theme, the opening strains of John Williams’ score to the first movie in the franchise.
From that point, the show was devoted to the self-titled debut CD recently released by Infinitus, on which the trio gives its beatbox treatment to the works of such divergent artists as Bach (Improvisations on Concerto in E Minor), Rimsky-Korsakov (Flight of the Bumblebee), Rogers and Hammerstein (My Favourite Things) and Thelonius Monk (‘Round Midnight).
The group also shined on its interpretation of progressive jazz pioneer Chick Corea’s Spain, and contributed several original compositions, two of which proved crowd favourites.
Hagolu, an acronym for “happy go-lucky”, featured snippets from no fewer than a dozen well-known songs and jingles, ranging from the Jeopardy theme to Camptown races. The group offered a prize to the first person who could name at least four of them, and the prize was claimed by Richelle Andre, a singer-songwriter who, coincidentally, played as the opening act for last year’s final NICS concert by bluesman Tim Williams.
The other hit was Lullaby in Birdland, which Infinitus gives the alternate title of Two Birds and a Hippo. The liner notes of the group’s CD claim the trio stopped performing the piece because the members couldn’t stop laughing while playing it, but the only laughs came from the audience as the Cheungs’ lighthearted bird whistles were answered by Littlejohn, as the hippo, responding in the unintelligible grunts of a Muppets monster while the three string instruments soared and dipped around the vocalizations.
The evening also featured the NICS annual Decadent Desserts, which were served to patrons at intermission. NICS chair Brian Hicks also recognized at $5,000 grant from the District of Port Hardy, and said announcements will be made in the coming months on acts signed for the coming 15th season.