November 21, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 47  

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Admiring the abstract canvas of the Chorus

By Anna Coutts
Gazette Staff

What happens when you combine alcohol, the City of Hamilton and a ton of vocal harmonies? You get A Northern Chorus, an eclectic group of musicians from Hamilton.

According to guitarist Pete Hall, the name simply reflects who they are. "Well we are from the north and our songs have a lot of vocal harmonies and choral singing, so why not call ourselves A Northern Chorus? And of course, there was some alcohol involved when we came up with that, so then it made even more sense."

A Northern Chorus consists of guitarists Stu Livingstone and Pete Hall, flutist Julie McDonald, bassist Owen Davies and percussionist Marshal Bureau, who come together to bring their listeners music that is an extension of their joyful emotions. The result - an eclectic variety of dreamy pop songs.

A Northern Chorus recently released their second album, Spirit Flags, and have been getting rave reviews for their diverse sound. "It's hard to pinpoint our sound," Hall says. "We don't want to pigeon-hole ourselves into a certain style. We don't have a set audience or target market, and I like that. Hopefully, that gets more people listening to us."

However, while part of A Northern Chorus's diverse sound may be intentional, much of this variance is due to the addition of new members since the release of their 2001 debut album, Before We All Go To Pieces. According to Hall, the recent inclusion of percussion and bass has given them "a more full [and dynamic] sound."

Spirit Flags offers a very professional, carefully planned-out mix of instrumentals. "With our first album, it was a home recording, so it was a little more all over the place; with Spirit Flags, we made sure we knew exactly what we wanted before we took it into the studio because we didn't want to waste our money. We left breathing room for the melodies."

The result is a piece of artwork that is hauntingly beautiful. In fact, when asked to describe A Northern Chorus's music as paint on a canvas, he vividly describes their work as an abstract piece.

"It would not be any set picture; it would be a lot of mixed and matched stuff - a lot of different colour hues, like reds and blues. Something that can have a different meaning to different people. And very messy."

The calming beauty of A Northen Chorus' sound may very well have spawned from the nature surrounding its members. "It is nice to live in a place where you aren't always immersed in concrete, like in the cities," he says. "I can just get in the car and drive for five minutes and be able to go hiking for two hours in the woods. It's nice to be able to do that."

The melodic diversity offered by A Northern Chorus attracts people of all ages and from every locale.

Who would A Northern Chorus really love to see pick up a copy of their CD and love it? "I'd have to say David Bowie," Hall says. "Just because, you know, it's David Bowie!" And, if it were possible, "all of The Beatles. And Brian Wilson too, for sure."



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