Aaron Jensen says there’s been a resurgence in a cappella music over the last 10 years.
Jensen, composer and arranger for Toronto-based 12-person vocal group Countermeasure, said more people are singing for pleasure than ever before, and with the popularity of movies and TV shows highlighting a cappella singing, “it feels like there’s a real renaissance for vocal music at the moment.”
“There’s something that’s very disarming about the voice,” Jensen said. “It’s very personal and versatile and actually even in straight-up pop music I’m hearing more and more voices functioning as instruments.”
Countermeasure will be showcasing that versatility of the voice when they present their modern take on vocal music at the Port Theatre on March 13 as part of Festival Nanaimo. Jensen said the group covers pop, soul and choral music, while making it current through the use of modern technical effects, like looping pedals and creative sound engineering.
Nanaimo’s Tidesmen chorus will open the show. Member Steve Price-Francis said the group will be playing a more modern repertoire to better blend with Countermeasure’s program. He said the choir is looking forward to being a part of the concert.
“They’re obviously extremely accomplished and they’ve played with some very high-profile, well-known singers,” Price-Francis said of Countermeasure. “So we really feel kind of privileged and excited at the thought of playing with a group with so many accomplishments and awards to their name.”
Jensen said there are different challenges when arranging a cover tune or an original for voice alone. When interpreting other people’s music, Jensen said he looks for an interesting lyric or “rhythmic figure” from which to draw inspiration. He said Countermeasure does a “James Brown, jungle beat-inspired” version of Cole Porter’s I’ve got you Under my Skin and a cover of Bruce Cockburn’s Lovers in a Dangerous Time with a “Middle Eastern, world flavour.”
“When it comes to originals, we’re already working with the constraint of not having instruments with us,” Jensen said. “And in addition to that, since we’ve been singing together for nearly 10 years now, rather than composing things in a vacuum I’m very much writing for the voices and the skill sets and the aesthetics of the singers that make up Countermeasure.”
WHAT’S ON … Festival Nanaimo presents Countermeasure at the Port Theatre on Wednesday, March 13 at 7 p.m. Tickets $28 and $32, $10 for students.