Distillery resident reprises role as director of a capella festival

Richard Holt –
Distillery District resident Aaron Jensen is already an internationally published composer, arranger and performer— and now he can add the title of artistic director for this year’s SING! vocal arts festival at Harbourfront Centre.

He is clearly proud of his ccomplishments.

“I’ve composed music for a pretty wide bunch of groups,” he says, “from the Swingle Singers to orchestral works that have been performed in various parts of the world; I have toured and performed with a variety of different groups. As well, I’m an associate composer with Canadian Music Centre.”

In addition, six years ago he wrote and orchestrated a full-length musical that had a two week run: O.E.D.: Dementia, Devotion and the Writing of the Old English Dictionary.

Adding to his remarkable resume, last year he was awarded the grand prize in the jazz category by the International John Lennon Songwriting Competition, and was the vocal arranger of the Contemporary A Cappella Recording Association’s (CARA) award-winning best jazz song of the year.

Jensen approaches his role as SING! artistic director with passion and creativity. Foremost for him is unique and innovative programming. “In my mind, it’s not enough to simply present groups performing their usual rep; we want to create experiences, collaborations, and events that our audiences couldn’t see anywhere
else. This year, we will be showcasing a partnered event with the National Film Board that pairs classic Canadian short films with vocal artists; we are presenting a world premiere choral concert that features the written works of poets from every province and territory of Canada; a collaborative concert that weaves together World Music from all across the world; a massive group sing-along, and much more.”

This is the second year of the SING! Festival and Jensen speaks enthusiastically about it. “It’s really special in Canada and is
comparable to a handful of other international events. The difference, though, is most vocal festivals in Canada focus on a particular arm of vocal music.Under our roof, you will just as likely hear a beat boxer or an improv a cappella comedy group or a gospel choir. We really cover a gamut of the vocal arts rather than just presenting groups performing their repertoires.”

Last year was the festival premiere and truly surpassed Jensen and his team’s expectations. Like all new projects there’s a learning curve, people don’t know who you are and it’s difficult to find

“Despite all of this,” he says, “we started big. In our first year, we had over 75 events including the Grammy award-winning super groups the Swingle Singers, and the New York Voices, the Nylons, and
Toronto’s own Elmer Iseler Singers. We dove in headfirst, and by some miracle brought out over 5,000 patrons, and somehow managed to break even.

“There were too many magic moments on stage last year to mention. Every group—from the community choirs to the jazz ensembles, from gospel singers, to the world collectives— brought something unique and wonderful.

“The Swingle Singers were such a hit that we decided to bring them back to celebrate their 50th anniversary.”

The 2013 festival runs May 9 to 12. “SING! 2013 offers a real smorgasbord of vocal music,” Jensen enthuses. “You will hear
the Elora Festival Singers, jazz legends Denzal Sinclaire, Frank Busseri of the Four Lads, and the Real Group. You will also see and hear things that are perhaps completely new to you: an overtone singer, a live-looping duo, and even a ‘sound choir.’”

For informtion about the SING! festival, visit www.torontovocalartsfestival.com or Jensen’s site is www.aaronjensen.ca