If you’re standing in a forest, tilting your head way back to glimpse the tops of all those majestic, thickly trunked trees, it’s just impossible not to be moved by their centuries-old resilience; the stoic strength that sees them through even the harshest storms that Mother Nature can unleash. Yet locked deep within the core of each of those mighty oaks and towering sequoias is something even stronger than their outwardly impressive surface layers: the heartwood. A tree’s densest, most durable—and often most beautiful—element, the heartwood is the robust, knotty marrow that keeps it standing proud and tall for all to marvel at. And not only is Heartwood also the name of Canadian singer-songwriter Sora’s astonishing third release, it’s as well the perfect metaphor for her music: gorgeous, rich, endlessly enduring.
“[The title track] is a love song, a heart gift for my husband,” says Sora, who’s known by her given name of Andrea Hunt when she’s not performing. “I wanted to capture the feeling of a love beyond time, that permanence you feel when you’re with someone and it seems like you’ve known them forever. The feeling that it’s truly timeless.” Timeless is the word that best describes the 11 songs on Heartwood, which was produced by the Juno-nominated Douglas Romanow. With its uniquely ancient-to-modern sound, Sora’s music weaves together contemporary rock with the mystical moods of Celtic folk, medieval madrigals, and other modes of early music. The result is a heady, colorfully evocative tapestry that conjures the imagery of long ago but feels just as current as anything from the present musical landscape—all the while sounding like little else on today’s airwaves. Across the album’s moody and atmospheric tracks Sora’s heartrending soprano glides like a graceful dove through swirling mists of violin, piano, harp, synthesizer, cello, guitar, percussion, and other instruments to deliver sweeping such performances as “Children of Lir,” based on the so-named ancient Irish legend, and “The Birch’s Lament,” a poignant epic inspired by Sora’s husband Bryan P. Hunt’s successful children’s book, 'Liselle and the Birch Prince'.
Born and raised in Calgary, Alberta, Sora was classically trained on violin and piano as a child and toured with a youth orchestra and fiddling group when she was a teenager. Surprisingly, however, it’s only recently that she became a singer, shortly after the birth of her first daughter in 2000 (she and Bryan have four children). “I’d been away from music for years, and I was starting to feel like something was missing in my life,” recalls the vocalist, who majored in psychology at the University of Calgary and graduated with honors. “I started taking voice lessons as something just for me, and things just blossomed from there.”
The initial fruits of Sora’s newfound voice were 2003’s Winds of Change, a collection of traditional folk songs from the British Isles, and 2007’s Light, a four-track EP. While her love of mythology plays a central role in her songs, Sora maintains that for her it’s not simply about setting tales to music. “It’s always my goal to understand the heart of the myth, rather than to simply retell a story,” she says. “I’m far more interested in discovering why that myth is still meaningful today.” And like those ancient myths themselves, the songs Sora sings have a hauntingly elusive resonance that will surely see them echoing throughout the ages to come.
“My ultimate goal is to create something that people would want to listen to and get lost in,” says Sora. And to that end, Heartwood is indeed a wonderful place to get lost in.
Sora - Vocals, Piano, Violin
Heartwood (May 2009)
Winds of Change 2003
Light EP 2008
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This is the second full release by singer/songwriter Sora, a Calgary mother of four young children w...This is the second full release by singer/songwriter Sora, a Calgary mother of four young children who skillfully manages to balance a career in music with the arduous task of raising a family. The album Heartwood was fashioned in response to a very successful EP she released last year that showcased her remarkable compositional skills combined with her opulent voice. Sora teamed up with producer Douglas Romanow to create a balanced recording of Celtic-inspired folk tunes that are ethereal and mysterious, ushering the listener on a journey of self-discovery. When I listened to this recording, the extraordinary Loreena McKennitt immediately came to mind, as you canï¿½t help but draw parallels between her music and Soraï¿½s, particularly the musical style and the way they both immerse themselves in the music that they perform. Trained as a violinist and pianist, Sora draws on these skills and experiences to help her create a enchanting listening soundscape that is highlighted by her passionate and heartfelt singing. Woven throughout the eleven selections on this album are captivating arrangements, unique instrumentation, and a poignant string quartet. Add to the mix some top-notch musicians such as the amazing violinist Hugh Marsh, and you have a winning formula! I particularly enjoyed the presence of the string quartet, the haunting violin, and the accompanying percussion. Of particular note are the title track, the string quartet-fashioned piece ï¿½Winter,ï¿½ and the haunting tracks ï¿½Hurricaneï¿½ and ï¿½Children of Lir.ï¿½ As soon as you begin listening to this album, its beauty and expressiveness will capture your heart and spirit.
Red Deer Express
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Moody, ethereal and atmospheric, Calgary-based singer Sora has captured a lovely, gentle Celtic sens...Moody, ethereal and atmospheric, Calgary-based singer Sora has captured a lovely, gentle Celtic sensibility with her latest release Heartwood. Clearly influenced by Irish songstress Enya and Canadian artist Loreena McKennitt and others in the similar musical vein, Sora manages to craft her own unique sound. Her soprano soars effortlessly over the acoustic-based tunes. Opening cut Heartwood is a gem with the flowing harp and rich melodic tapestries.
Since releasing her debut Winds of Change (2003), a collection of folk songs from the British Isles, her talents have been getting increasing support from industry and fans. In the year and a half that followed she began writing her own material which led to the recording of a demo in late 2006. Several of the tracks on Heartwood provoke that heart swell you get in moments of true triumph. ï¿½My music, to me, comes from the natural worldï¿½sometimes by mythology, but it is always my goal to understand the heart of the myth rather than to simply retell a story,ï¿½ she says. ï¿½I am far more interested in discovering why it is still meaningful today. The songs are not about me, but I cannot deny that I find myself in them.ï¿½
The magic continues on tunes like Eurydice, a song that could almost instantly calm every frazzled nerve. The mellow tones of Winter follow in a similar sonic path as does the comparatively brooding sense of Hurricane. Sora is clearly influenced by her surroundings, and the sights and sounds of the natural world shine through in her carefully-produced sensual music. In an increasingly hurried age, itï¿½s a wonderful gift to have artists like Sora who are devoted to creating such soothing, well-crafted music.
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Sora's third release is a remarkable accomplishment because she manages to construct sweet, soft, ye...Sora's third release is a remarkable accomplishment because she manages to construct sweet, soft, yet daring arrangements based on Celtic, classical and folk music without sounding over dramatic. Most of this is due to her narrative - folk tales based on the majesty of nature and finding oneself during harsh times - which listeners can easily connect with in some way or another.
Musically, Heartwood is an easy listening affair; but producer/engineer Douglas Romanow has done a wonderful job capturing every nuance of Sora's airy vocals, the radiant strings sections, and the soft strokes and plucks of guitar, mandolin, glockenspiel and piano. All these organic instruments lead to a very picturesque vibe that sedates you to the point where you can dream the lyrics.
While this is a good start for Sora, I couldn't help but imagine what she might sound like if she ventured into darker territory with more percussive instruments and some electronic build-ups. Still, fans of Lisa Gerrard or even Josh Groban should give Heartwood a good listen.
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Sora`s CD stood out among the piles of CDs that I wade through. In an age of music business survival...Sora`s CD stood out among the piles of CDs that I wade through. In an age of music business survival, she brilliantly included a handwritten note addressed directly to me along with a small dark chocolate. That personal touch made me take a few minutes and listen and I was impressed with what I heard.
Fans of Enya and Charlotte Church will find something special in the music of the Alberta songstress who goes by the name Sora. Elements of classical, folk and Celtic combine for a truly memorable sound.
Sora`s crystalline voice is chilling and direct and her songs are backed by top-notch musicians including Kevin Breit (guitar, mandolin), Gary Craig (drums) and the legendary Hugh Marsh (violin).
Highlights include the Drift, the guitars in Twilight, the percolating strings in Winter, Light and the stirring title track.
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The first few seconds of Sora's 2009 release Heartwood sounds reminiscent to that of an Enya album. ...The first few seconds of Sora's 2009 release Heartwood sounds reminiscent to that of an Enya album. But patience is virtue and almost instantly after Sora's vocals breeze in, you are captivated. The title track 'Heartwood,' the first off the album, draws you in with its hauntingly beautiful melody while managing to conjure an image similar to something painted by the Group of Seven. To kick off her brilliant lyrical tirade she begins, 'I tread the forests of your eyes. Wild paths within. Dappled sunlight moves us in circle.'
Sora, a native name for 'singing bird soaring,' describes perfectly what Calgary's Celtic Princess is doing. Born Andrea Hunt, the spiritual and narrative singer/songwriter has shifted her focus from folk to Celtic since dropping her debut album, Winds of Change, in 2003.
Calling Heartwood 'the core of truths we carry,' Sora explores beginnings and endings in this latest release. She examines the seasons of life, summoning vivid imagery and symbolism. From a melancholic winter on track four crying, 'Snow is falling/Darkness falling/Winter's calling tonight,' to a climatic storm in track 5's 'Hurricane,' each song seemingly reflects an emotional enmity from a past lover.
It's hard to imagine a mom of four with a husband she affectionately refers to as her heartwood would be consumed with any hatred at all, but like a torrential down pour, the sun always comes out and Sora explores this part of life (springtime) in 'Twilight.' She sings, 'And I can see in your eyes eternal sunrise/Full of hope, full of love for all our days/As we stand hand in hand to face the winds of time. I can trust in your love for me.' She easily gives John McDermott a run for his money.
Perhaps growing up in a household that shunned Top 40 music, and being partnered with her desire to create art that embodied her Canadian surroundings, were the successful combination of ingredients that created Heartwood. It's an obscure and alluring Celtic masterpiece.
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It`s simply glorious music.` That`s how one reviewer sums up Sora`s talent for the liner notes of he...It`s simply glorious music.` That`s how one reviewer sums up Sora`s talent for the liner notes of her new CD Heartwood and it`s tough to argue with that assessment. 4 CDs out of 5 Her haunting vocals, complemented splendidly by an array of classical instruments, lift one to a whole other place. A peaceful place. With Juno Award-nominated producer Douglas Romanow at the helm, the recording quality is superb.
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This five star rated CD by Atlantic Seabreeze is a gem and listeners to this album will enjoy Sora`s...This five star rated CD by Atlantic Seabreeze is a gem and listeners to this album will enjoy Sora`s singing and her writings as well. Rave reviews are pouring in by the music industry and critics as well. Many talented musicians help Sora with the music namely: Douglas Romanow, Ray Dillard, Fergus and Hugh Marsh, Kevin Breit, George Koller, Gary Craig, Sharlene Wallace, Lenny and Wendy Solomon, Ronald Bal and Claudia Vena. This flawless album tells the haunting stories of love, anguish, pain and hope and the listeners can discover the emotions and depth of the songs. She shares her touching personal stories and delivers to the listener her emotions. Throughout the album she writes about her influences by environment such as leaves, petals, rocks crystals and these are the heartgifts she shares with the listener. The album jacket contains all words of the 11 songs.
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There's something about Sora's achingly beautiful voice that immediately lifts you out of yourself a...There's something about Sora's achingly beautiful voice that immediately lifts you out of yourself and delivers your senses to a different world. This is a world where she adds touching personal stories to sweeping melodies to build towers and dungeons of emotion in your mind. There's so much depth and breadth of music and narrative in her new album 'Heartwood' that you could travel for miles in its embrace.
'Heartwood' is a collection of faultless songs that reflect intense, haunting stories of love, anguish, pain and hope ' written and delivered so everyone can share in the emotion and identify with the message. Of course, you could listen while you do something else and just enjoy a balm of soothing sound washing around your ears. Alternatively (and recommended) you sit down with an hour to spare, lights out, candle flickering and bathe in the pure sanctity and intensity of voice and lyrics. Personally, I'd go for the latter or you will miss so much.
The eponymous 'Heartwood' opens the album, and transcends song to become an anthem to a soul coming home. From the first note 'Hurricane' is full of foreboding, its lyrics expressing the search for truth and need for solace. 'Light' by contrast is a gentle cry for freedom, with a touch or pure beauty. Other gems exist in 'The Juniper' and 'Madron Well' as they ask you to join the mystery of the natural world.
Here are songs that circle and soar. Here are emotions that rise and fall. Here is an intuitive feel for story and composition. Here are lyrics that lift and reflect. Here are ideas expressed by a voice that touches your soul. 'Heartwood' is clearly Sora's labour of love ' listen and you will love it too.
And it came with a cookie
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"Sora's ballads are filled with sincerity and pristine beauty. Her combination of folk and neoclassi..."Sora's ballads are filled with sincerity and pristine beauty. Her combination of folk and neoclassical is stunning and defies easy pigeonholing. It's simply glorious music. I immediately had to order Winds Of Change after hearing Light, and I'm looking forward to Sora's second full length. You should go to Sora's Myspace where this complete EP can be listened. Sadly it is myspace quality. The sound on CD is so much better and well worth your money. This is one of the best EP's I've heard. Not just this year, but ever.
And it came with a cookie, can you imagine the cuteness?"
David Settles - Talent Coordinator
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On two occasions this past year I have had the privilege to schedule Sora for singing performances. ...On two occasions this past year I have had the privilege to schedule Sora for singing performances. These were at the Water Valley Celtic Folk Festival and The Calgary Celtic Folk Club. Sora was brilliant for both of these occasions. She handled the performances very professional and captivated her audiences with clear, meaningful and beautiful singing.
Depending on the venue, a mixture of traditional folk and original compositions
Sets are generally 30-45 minutes and mostly consist of original material
Children of Lir
There are no upcoming dates at this time.