By Mike Butler
I love challenges and over the years I have challenged myself greatly with this column by writing about people from all walks of life, including couples, families, and even characters from history. But this profile will be a true test to my skills because it’s about a GROUP of amazing people. I am thrilled to tell you all about the ORO! ORKESTRA!
ORO! ORKESTRA is a Wolfville–based Turko-Balkan party dance band made up of community members and Acadia students and faculty. Now heading into their third season, the band came about as a way to enjoy great live music and good company while offering audiences a different sound. I have seen ORO! Orkestra before and they’re truly marvelous. They play the wild and beautiful party dance music of Bulgaria, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, and the Roma! In these cultures, this type of dancing happens at weddings and other celebrations. Currently, ORO! Orkestra is an eleven-piece band and their instrumentation includes saxophone, violin, trumpet, trombone, tuba, accordion, guitar, double bass, many incredible voices, and a whole heap of drumming!
Their local ORO! Dance parties are attended by people of all ages who enjoy sharing a sense of community in a laid-back setting. Dancers are welcome to join the circle, or to enjoy their own free-style grooves any way the music moves them! Watching a live performance of this music is something to behold. In addition to playing for dancers, they love head-boppers and toe-tappers of all types! And it’s hard not to get your feet moving and your head bopping to this music
Now, would you like to meet the band members? Well, ORO! Orkestra is a Who’s Who of familiar faces and super-talented community members. Follow the photo from Left to Right with the names below and learn a little bit more about them.
Ariana Nasr (soprano sax, voice) plays music frequently, in multiple contexts, on multiple instruments, and now in multiple languages. This is her second season as a member of ORO!
Angela Forbes (trumpet) has been playing in ORO! as a brass player for only a few months, but she’s been moving to their music for as long as they’ve been performing in Wolfville.
Ken Shorley (band leader, darbuka, davul, saz, voice) is a percussionist who specializes in hand drumming styles from around the world. He is thrilled to have the privilege of working with such a wonderful group of musical beings in ORO! Orkestra! He tends to flow to the beat of his own drum!
Cailun Campbell (double bass) plays the bass. A lot. When he’s not playing with ORO! (Or a million other groups in Nova Scotia) he’s probably carrying his bass to or from a gig, giving someone a hug, picking up a friend from the airport, or playing in the Just Us! Alleyway!
Mylène DiPenta (violin, voice) is returning to the fiddle after a long hiatus from classical music, experimenting fearlessly with kemence tunes and Turkish singing, and (in a day-time alternate life) exhorting electronics students toward bold experiments of their own.
David Mangle (tuba, trombone) is a former Men of Wolfville calendar model, with a lot of hot air it seems. David happily plays tuba and trombone with ORO! He has lived in Wolfville since 1982, played trombone for 54 years and tuba for 25 years.
Marc Blumberg (accordion, voice) lives near St Margaret’s Bay, and works as a Registered Doctoral Psychologist. He also makes great balloon animals! Marc plays the accordion, which I have always found to be one of the coolest instruments!
Susan Hauer (voice) has been performing as a singer in all kinds of contexts since she was a kid. But it was hearing a vinyl record of Bulgarian women’s field songs in 1969 that first awakened her interest in vocal world music and now, over 40 years later, ORO! has given her the opportunity to explore some of it with a grand group of talented, good humoured and delightful musical mates.
Naoko Tsujita (percussion) started to play percussion at the age of nine and marimba at the age of eleven. She studied music at the Oita Prefectural College of Arts and Culture in Japan. Now, she is a third year student at Acadia University.
Eugene Cormier (guitar) teaches classical guitar at Acadia University, and has been producing all kinds of weird sounds on his guitar since he joined ORO in 2013.
Heidi Kalyani (dance leader, frame drum) has been in love with Turkish and Balkan music and dancing for a long time! She is delighted to be sharing this passion with the Wolfville community through ORO! Orkestra.
And now is your chance to get involved and be a part of this tremendous group. On Monday, February 16 and Monday, March 16, ORO! Orkestra is offering learn-to-dance sessions upstairs at the Wolfville Curling Club for $5. See their website (oro-orkestra.com), join their email newsletter, or like their Facebook page (www.facebook.com/OroOrkestra) for more details.
And remember that I mentioned an opportunity to see ORO! Well, On Saturday, January 31, ORO! Orkestra is playing a dance party at the Wolfville Farmers’ Market, starting at 8pm. Tickets at the door ($10/$5 students). This is going to be a blast everyone, and I encourage you all to come out and enjoy the show and be a part of the community that this band promotes and creates! Play On!