Ensemble Polaris was founded in the spring of 1997 to explore the music of the north: Scandinavia, the Baltic countries, Scotland, and Canada. Comprised of Canadian musicians from a unique array of traditions and backgrounds, the band treats traditional tunes from Sweden, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Scotland and Canada in innovative, categorization-defying ways, by blending various techniques of improvisation and arrangement.
Polaris first performed at Toronto's Northern Encounters Festival in June of 1997 and subsequent concerts have been heard across Canada in numerous broadcasts on CBC-Radio 2. Their Montr?al d?but for Radio-Canada at the Salle Pierre Mercure in 2004 met with enthusiastic acclaim. Their first CD Midnight Sun appeared on the Dorian label and received international critical acclaim including a "Disc of the Month" rating in Classic CD (UK) magazine.
Choreographer Carol Anderson used several tracks from Midnight Sun for her creation Shore, which was performed by the Canadian Children's Dance Theatre. Polaris received a grant for repertoire development from the Canada Council in 2001, and much of this new work can be heard on their second CD, Not Much is Worse than a Troll, released in January 2005. Primarily an instrumental ensemble, their frequent guest vocalist Katherine Hill joined the group as a member in late 2006.
DEBASHIS SINHA is a Toronto based percussionist who specializes in the drums of the Arab world, Greece, and Turkey. His ability to uncover the rhythmic threads in a wide variety of musical styles have earned him a place in the forefront of Canada's new generation of traditional musicians, appearing with such acts as autorickshaw, Maryem Tollar, Leela Gilday, the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, Trichy Sankaran and others. A founding member of Juno nominated world music ensemble Maza Mez?, Debashis has performed with them and other ensembles on stages across Canada, the US and as far away as Cairo. Equally at home in world music and free improvised contexts, Debashis' approach to percussion ranges from the deeply traditional to the cutting edge of modern sensibility. He has studied South Indian rhythmic theory with Trichy Sankaran, Arabic tambourine and doumbeck at the Helwan University Faculty of Music in Cairo, and has traveled to the US to take lessons from tombak master Pejman Hadadi. He has been awarded grants from the Canada Council, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council and the Chalmers Foundation for a wide variety of projects, including projects that are part of his growing catalogue of new media and audio art works. A fixture on Toronto's dance scene, he has collaborated and performed with Peggy Baker, Dancemakers, Hari Krishnan, Anita Ratnam, and Winnipeg's Fusion Dance Theatre. On CD Debashis can be heard in various solo projects as well as recordings with Maza Mez?, autorickshaw, Doula and others.
KIRK ELLIOTT has been called ?the Leonardo da Vinci of Canadian music' (Max Ferguson, CBC) and 'a one man cottage industry of sound' (Jurgen Gothe, CBC). He lives in Toronto, where he has composed and performed music for the Toronto Dance Theatre, Danny Grossman Dance Company, Canadian Children's Dance Theatre, Dancemakers, the National Ballet, National Film Board of Canada, CTV and the Discovery Channel. Kirk was the music director for 'Up Your Glass', Jurgen Gothe's one-man show produced for the Vancouver International Wine Festival, and was nominated for a Dora Award as musical director of 'Gynty' at the Tarragon Theatre. As a performer, Kirk has played with Ensemble Polaris, the Toronto Consort; toured across North America from St. John's to Honolulu with Sharon, Lois and Bram; and introduced children to Celtic, jazz, rock, old-time fiddle and Elizabethan music as a guest with the Victoria and Kingston Symphony Orchestras. Kirk has released over a dozen CDs of original music for adults and children, receiving Juno and Indie Awards. Saturdays he can be heard playing medieval instruments on 'Jane and the Dragon' (YTV) and rock guitar, bass and keyboards on 'Car Business' (CTV). Most recently he has composed the score for Oscar winning director Chris Landreth's film The Spine, soon to be seen at the Toronto World Wide Short Film Festival.
The newest member of Ensemble Polaris, Toronto-born KATHERINE HILL is a specialist in medieval music as a singer and fiddler, and has also studied Swedish traditional music with a special interest in the nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle). She is frequently heard as a member of the Toronto Consort and with numerous other Canadian groups including Ensemble les Fumeux, I Furiosi, Toronto Masque Theatre, the Aradia Ensemble and many others. From 2000 to 2006 Katherine was based in Amsterdam, where she studied early music as the two-time winner of awards from the Canada Council; during her time in northern Europe she performed with such groups as Sequentia, Concerto Palatino, Scivias, Ensemble Elyma, Super Librum and the Collegium Vocale Gent. Over the last decade Katherine has also pursued a passion for projects which fuse early music with other disciplines, including electronics, experimental theatre, dance and filmand is a co-founder of ensemble nu:n, a group which uses improvisation and electronics to mix electric guitar and saxophone with sung liturgical music from the middle ages. She is regularly heard on CBC Radio and has recorded for many labels including Naxos, Dorian, Marquis and RaumKlang. She is currently pursuing graduate studies at the Centre for Medieval Studies in Toronto, with a focus on northern Germanic languages and literature.
After completing a Bachelor of Music degree at Boston University School for the Arts, MARGARET GAY accepted an invitation to the Banff Centre for Fine Arts, where she completed the winter programme. From there she moved to Toronto, where she earned a Master's degree at the University of Toronto and began a remarkably active freelance career performing on both modern and period ?cello. Margaret performs regularly with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony, Opera Atelier, Mississauga Sinfonia, Baroque Music Beside The Grange, the Eybler Quartet, and Ensemble Polaris, a group exploring the traditional music of various Nordic countries. She is Artistic Director of the Gallery Players of Niagara, an organization based in the Niagara Region that presents chamber music, and has also spent considerable time exploring new music. She was for many years a member of Modern Quartet, a string quartet dedicated to the performance of new works, the Burdocks, a foursome specializing in works of the 20th century, and Critical Band. In the summers she has performed at the Carmel Bach Festival, Stratford, Elora, Parry Sound, Grand River Baroque, and Lameque Baroque Music festivals, as well as teaching ?cello and coaching chamber music at the Toronto Board of Education Music Camp, and the University of New Brunswick Summer Music Camp. Margaret can be heard on numerous CD's, including a recent release from Analekta of Joseph Leopold Eybler's Op. 1 string quartets, Ensemble Polaris, Not Much Is Worse Than A Troll, a Hungaroton disc of 17th century English theatre music, Ah! How Sweet It Is To Love, O Bali from New Music Concerts, and A Curious Collection for the Common Flute.
BEN GROSSMAN is a vielle ? roue (hurdy gurdy/Drehleier) player, percussionist, composer and improviser based in Toronto, Ontario. He grew up playing electric guitar, listening to Bartok, Satie, Var?se and Reich, and building homemade synthesizers and effects in his parent's suburban basement. He later became interested, at various times, in traditional Irish, Balkan, French, Turkish and Arabic music. Ben has studied Turkish music in Istanbul and, since taking up the vielle, has done workshops and lessons with Valentin Clastrier, Matthias Loibner, Maxou Heintzan and Simon Wascher. Ben has over 70 CD credits, and has performed and recorded with many ensembles over the years including La Nef, the Toronto Consort, GaPa, Ensemble Polaris, The Altan Yildiz Orkestar, Ima Ensemble, Duo O'Connor-Grossman. BT, James Keelaghan, Bobby Watt, Basic Elements, Aradia, Loreena McKennitt, Fools Dance, Oliver Schroer and the Stewed Tomatoes, Laurel MacDonald, Brandon Scott-Beshara, Anne Lederman, Pilgrim's Trail Mix, Pat O'Gorman, Laridenn, Kitty's Kitchen, Ensemble Ben Trobar, Doula, Rhea's Obsession, Loretto Ried and Brian Taheny, and Joyce's Folly. His playing can also be heard on many film and television soundtracks, performances with the Toronto Consort, Maryem Tollar, BT, Loreena McKennitt, and in various solo and ensemble improvisational events. Ben toured recently with electronic music pioneer BT and is currently engaged in Spinning Wheel, an international collective compositional, recording and performance project which brings together six cutting-edge hurdy gurdy players from around the world. His first solo album, Macrophone was released in 2007 and features a unique two CD form for simultaneous, aleatoric playback.
MARCO CERA studied at the Padua Conservatory of Music (Italy) and at the Musikhochschule der Stadt Basel (Switzerland). In 1996 he was chosen as first oboe for the European Union Baroque Orchestra, with which he performed in Denmark, Portugal, Germany, United Kingdom and South Africa. He regularly collaborates as a soloist with the leading baroque orchestras in Italy and Europe, including Il Giardino Armonico, Concerto Italiano, I Sonatori della Gioiosa Marca, Les Talens Lyriques, Europa Galante, Accademia Bizantina, La Cappella della Pieta' dei Turchini, Apollo's Fire, I Barocchisti, Tafelmusik, Academia Montis Regalis, and has worked with conductors Jordi Savall, Gustav Leonhardt, Robert King, Jesper Christensen, Jaap ter Linden and Barthold Kuijken.
Since playing her first CBC recording gig at the age of 20, ALISON MELVILLE's career has taken her across Canada and to the USA, Iceland, Japan, New Zealand and Europe. A member of Toronto Consort and a frequent performer with Tafelmusik, she has appeared with many other ensembles and festivals across North America including Opera Atelier, Boston Early Music Festival, Aradia Ensemble, I Furiosi, la Nouvele Sinfonie, Early Music Vancouver, Canadian Opera Company, Festival of the Sound, Festival Vancouver and others. She has appeared as a soloist with Tafelmusik, the Toronto Symphony, Orchestra London, Aradia, and the Niagara and Mississauga Symphonies; has played new music concerts for Soundstreams, New Music Concerts and ArrayMusic, and can be heard on over 45 CDs, including four critically-acclaimed solo recordings. Her work in music for film and television includes CBC's beloved The Friendly Giant, films by Atom Egoyan, Amnon Buchbinder and Ang Lee, and the TV series ?The Tudors.' As a creator of original music her work has been heard in 999 Years of Music (dir. Peter Hannan), the Post-Medieval Syndrome project, Amherst Early Music in Connecticut and Vermont, and at the Oberlin Conservatory (OH). She is currently working on a mixed-media project of music for, by, about and inspired by birds, which includes several new pieces written for her by various Canadian musician/composers. For many years Alison was also co-Artistic Director of Baroque Music beside the Grange. She has been a professor at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music since 1999 and also teaches for the University of Toronto.
COLIN SAVAGE has performed on recorder and clarinet with ensembles in Canada, the USA and Japan, including Artek, New York Collegium, Tafelmusik, Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, la Nouvele Sinfonie, Aradia Ensemble, Apollo's Fire and the Toronto Consort. In 2006 he appeared as soloist in Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with the American Virtuosi for their collaboration with the Jose Limon Dance Company in "Concerto Six Twenty-two." Colin is principal clarinetist in the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra and frequently performs chamber and orchestral music on period clarinets and basset horn. He is regularly heard on CBC Radio, and has recorded for Sony Classical, ebs, Naxos, Atma, Analekta and Dorian. He has taught for the Young Artists Performance Academy at the Glenn Gould Professional School of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Colin studied at the University of Saskatchewan, McGill University and in London, England.