Yo Ho! Montreal’s award-winning La Nef travels west to join Vancouver’s own JUNO-nominated Chor Leoni for The Return Voyage, a rousing night of nautical songs.
February 16th and 17th at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church, listen along to the tales of those lives led abroad in the 18th and 19th centuries, embodying the thrill of dangerous adventure, a longing for loved ones at home, and the joys of seeing the world. The concert features arrangements from renowned Shantyman Seán Dagher whose rich, full-throated voice leads the seven members of La Nef alongside more than 60 voices of Choir Leoni on a rollicking voyage of high seas harmonies.
“Chor Leoni and La Nef are a match made in heaven. The niche expertise and technical mastery of La Nef combine with Chor Leoni’s passion and soaring sound, resulting in a musical experience as powerful and refreshing as ocean waves,” says Erick Lichte, Artistic Director of Chor Leoni. “It is no understatement to state that our very first collaboration in February 2020 [Sea Songs and Shanties] was one of the best concerts in our choir’s history. It was also our final performance before our regular gatherings were sidelined for years due to the pandemic. Four years later – nearly to the day – we are thrilled for the opportunity to reunite.”
With titles such as Haul on the Bowline and Leave Her, Johnny, shanties are a curious form of music where the individual songs may be unfamiliar – but the style is instantly recognizable; beloved for its driving beats, stirring melodies, and whimsical tales of adventure, longing, and journeys home. Thanks to TikTok, the form gained a huge resurgence in recent years, kickstarted by a Scottish postal worker singing shanty Wellerman in the early days of the pandemic.
The players and singers of La Nef have long taken an interest in these folk songs, which have largely been passed down through the oral tradition and rarely set in writing. The eclectic ensemble, who also specialize in early, classical, jazz, and world music, were well positioned to explore such repertoire and have developed a large body of work around it. Today, their expertise is such that the ensemble was approached to contribute their voices and songs to the soundtracks for three iterations in the historically-set Assassin’s Creed video game series (Assassin’s Creed 3, Black Flag, and Rogue). La Nef’s stirring, fresh, and fun approach to shanties gives modern audiences a new way to experience these rollicking, catchy, and sometimes heartbreaking songs.
The 75-minute program is arranged by La Nef member and iconic Shantyman Seán Dagher. The multifaceted artist’s renditions of sea shanties and other songs have been streamed more than 70 million times through Dagher’s Shanty of the Week series and channels. As he sings and plays cittern (a Renaissance-era member of the mandolin family), the members of La Nef will join in on Irish bodhrán, bouzoukis, penny whistle, and more, while the singing lions of Chor Leoni will belt out as enthusiastically as any crew on the high seas.
Experience The Return Voyage for yourself, February 16, 2024 at 7:30pm and February 17, 2024 at 2pm and 5pm at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United (1022 Nelson St). Find details and tickets at chorleoni.org/event/the-return-voyage