ENSEMBLE POLARIS, featuring fellow Heliconian Alison Melville and Margaret Gay in their midst, was founded to create a distinctively Canadian voice for the music of the north – Scandinavia, Canada, the Baltics and, most recently, Russia. With musicians from richly diverse traditions and backgrounds, they have a colourful, unusual instrumentation that ranges from cello and bass clarinet to nyckelharpa, bazouki and the musical saw. they play category-defying arrangements of northern traditional music, as well as original tunes by Polaris members and other Canadian and international musician/composers.
Two years ago they wanted to create an antidote to the festive season’s musical clichés, and got the idea to arrange Tchaikovsky’s quintessential ballet music for their unusual instrumentation. Definitely Not the Nutcracker was born and premiered at our own Heliconian Hall!
As a natural extension to their ‘northern’ rep, they added some Russian folk tunes to the mix; these are also a perfect complement to Tchaikovsky, who loved and made arrangements of his country’s folk music. The show in 2011 was a huge hit, so they expanded the rep and played for an even bigger, enthusiastic crowd in a larger venue last December.