Musical ensemble gets city endorsement

Good singing and proper technique may not sound as sexy as say Beyoncé spending a million dollars on her unborn baby, but if you’re looking for actual music, the girls from Candesca say they won’t disappoint.

Good singing and proper technique may not sound as sexy as say Beyoncé spending a million dollars on her unborn baby, but if you’re looking for actual music, the girls from Candesca say they won’t disappoint.

Candesca is a group of 15 to 21-year-olds whose angelic voices tackle a repertoire ranging from Gregorian chant to classical art song with a modern twist. While they may sing medieval music, they mix in plenty of contemporary and manage to learn songs from cultures all over the world, and generally a capella.

“Compared to typical pop songs, we sort of have a message and that’s a little bit profound in this day and age,” said Carmen Harris, one of the founding members. “And the idea of 17-year-olds and 21-year-olds singing classically and actually bothering to train I think really intrigues people.”

Harris joined the group when Alexandra Babbel, an Okanagan-based opera singer whose taught and performed internationally, first started the group, in part to provide opportunities for her own daughter.

The successful ensemble eventually managed to tour both New York and Europe and has recently been invited back to Dresden, Germany for a second European tour. Well known for their years of performing and volunteering in the community, their efforts have won the support of the City of Kelowna for their upcoming fundraising performance. The concert will be sponsored by the Kelowna Community Theatre, run by the municipality, to help the girls raise as much money for the Dresden tour as possible.

“Kelowna is more of a hockey town and athletes, well deservedly, get a lot of attention and funding for their efforts,” said Babbel. “Musicians, artists, dancers, et al can sometimes get left behind.”

So when the community theatre offered the space, the group was utterly thrilled.

Babbel, for her part, knows exactly how important exposing young musicians to experiences beyond their own community can be as she taught and performed in some pretty exotic locales herself. Entertaining audiences in Chicago, with highlights like the title role of Philip Hagemman’s world premier of The Aspern Papers and soprano roles with the Lincoln Opera and the Milwaukee Opera Company in La Boheme, she managed to live the life of an artist before settling in the Okanagan Valley.

Since moving to Kelowna she has continued to share her talents and help others to do the same. The Candesca performance, for example, will include pottery by local audio engineer Brian Wiebe, who has recently ventured into the art form.

“Mystically, somehow, my pottery sort of made it into the background of the show,” said Wiebe, whose Bonze Age-inspired pots will be placed all over the stage as props.

“I don’t know whether the general public at large feels the same way I do about these forms,” said Wiebe. “They are sort of ubiquitous in the Middle East. I was always perplexed as to why we don’t see more of it.”

Weibe’s portion of the show will, admittedly, be an experiment, he said, but should literally set the stage for a very unique night of music.

Now six years into their career, the Candesca girls are also likely in a position to do a little paying it forward.

“I think people really want to get on board with this project because it’s so important to preserve good music,” said Harris, noting that the entire group is very honoured to have the city’s backing.

“They’re sort of calling us Kelowna’s Candesca, which is really, really nice to have as a label.”

The Candesca performance runs at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the Kelowna Community Theatre. This will be their last concert before the Christmas season. Tickets are $23.75 and can be purchased through Select Your Tickets,, or by calling 250-762-5050.



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