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ESO and Volare Tenors' 'popera' kick-starts Plaza Series

Outdoor performances outside St. Albert Place begin this Thursday, Aug. 5.
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The dynmaic Volare Tenors, (left to right) are Kaden Forsberg, Laren Steppler, and Taylor Fawcett. The trio opens for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra on Thursday, Aug. 5 as part of the Arden Theatre's Plaza Series.

This is a week many St. Albert music fans have been waiting for after months of empty seats and dimmed theatre lights. In a significant lifting of restrictions from Premier Jason Kenney’s roadmap, the Arden Theatre launches its inaugural Plaza Series on Thursday, Aug. 5. 

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, with a pared down but stellar roster of musicians, welcomes socially-distanced audiences with light classical repertoire. No longer only performing virtually, the 18 live musicians play Antonio Vivaldi’s 1720 great hit – the whimsical Four Seasons

This audience-friendly, outdoor concert for violin and string orchestra depicts the seasons through sounds of nature: flowing creeks, singing birds, a shepherd and his barking dog, buzzing flies, storms, drunken dancers, hunting parties, frozen landscapes, and warm winter fires. 

Opening the event is Volare Tenors, a new generation of classical music stars pioneering their unique mix of classics with a dash of pop, rock, and jazz influences. Taylor Fawcett, Kaden Forsberg, and Laren Steppler tag the music “popera.” 

“We embrace that title. We primarily sing and put our own spin on it. We three sing very high. For most tenors, their highest notes are our lowest, and we sing virtuosic arrangements. Many groups stay static. They sing the same arrangements. We constantly change our arrangements, and create a dynamic, engaging way our voices can crisscross,” said Fawcett. 

Steppler, a graduate of the University of Alberta music program in vocal performance, and Fawcett and Forsberg, both graduates from King’s University, formed the trio slightly more than a year ago. 

In choosing their name, the trio turned to the Gypsy Kings for inspiration. Long-time admirers of the French flamenco-salsa-pop group, the trio recorded Volare, one of their mentors’ songs. During the recording the trio learned volare means "to fly" in Italian. 

“We were looking for a verb for our name. When we found out it [volare] meant ‘to fly,’ it became a cool symbol of what we wanted to do with our music,” Fawcett said. “We wanted to sing big, beautiful lines. We wanted to give the audience a soaring sensation with our chords and arrangements.” 

Their 40-minute playlist will include such classic hits as You Raise Me Up, to newly recorded material such as Despacito, a sultry Latin number chalk-full of summer vibes sung to pre-recorded backing tracks. 

Tenors are taught to maximize vocal output through breathing techniques that allow their voices to project across a hall without damaging their vocal chords. Interestingly, Volare Tenors will be miked for the Plaza Series outdoor performance. 

“Microphones offer a bit of flexibility. We can produce a dynamic range or sing softly and still be heard. We can better control our voices,” said Fawcett. 

For the past year, the threesome lived in different cities. Despite COVID-19's restrictions, they continued to record and film remotely. But nothing compares with the adrenalin rush of being onstage. 

“We’re very excited to share our music with St. Albert. We’re excited to get out in front of people and see faces, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to perform live. And we’re excited to share the stage with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.”  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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