Gillian Kirkland
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Gillian Kirkland


Band Jazz Cabaret





You may have noticed Gillian Kirkland in the ByWard Market, an urchin singing for her supper, shielded by her weathered accordion from distracted passersby, exhaling the drama of Brecht or Weill into the ether.

Or so it might have seemed.

“Playing on the street is very therapeutic,” says Kirkland of her occasional forays into buskerdom. “It gives you a reality check. It requires a lot of emotional stamina; it’s extremely demanding, emotionally and physically, because you never know what response you’re going to get. But it’s a good way to break the ice.”

And, as the artist whose 2010 CD, Indifférence, conveyed a distinct cabaretvibe — in both official languages — prepares for her first show with a new band and a new sound, Kirkland plans to draw on that street-level performance experience.

“The music is changing from what was on the CD,” she says. “There’s more of a jazz influence, more improvisation. But improvisation comes naturally to me, through playing on the street. There’s a lot of time to kill, and you have to be able adapt quickly.”

Indifférence is not devoid of jazz inflections — Kirkland cites Nina Simoneas a major influence on her music — but the shift in direction is a calculated response to the accordionist and singer’s experiences off the street.

“It’s kind of an experiment,” she says of the approach she will be taking at her first show with accompanists Nathan Morris (bass) and Andrew Letourneau (percussion). “The sound on the album, it was difficult to carry in a bar context. People would tell me it was more like chamber music, that it could be more punchy.”

The chamber music charge seems valid, given Kirkland’s classical training and continuing involvement with the genre — she recently composed a work for a local children’s choir. But the artist says she is excited about taking music into uncharted territory.

“For a classical musician to move to improvisation is quite a challenge,” Kirkland admits, “because everything in classical is structured. So this is a little bit scary. But that’s OK, I’m attracted to what scares me.”

And, she need not add, Kirkland has played to tougher crowds. - THE WIG, February 26th 2011 (Ottawa) - Allan Wigney


Gillian Kirkland’s music has been called such things as “neo-cabaret” and “folk jazz,” among other things.

But when asked what she would call her style, Kirkland responded, “I think that is the worst question you could ask an artist.”

Instead, Kirkland said her music borrows from many different genres: her vocals come from a background in classical singing, and her music and melodies originate from her love of both folk and Celtic music.

Kirkland, the French-Canadian singer, songwriter and accordionist, played at the Mercury Lounge Feb. 26 for a crowd of 20, accompanied by Nathan Morris on the double bass and keyboard and Andrew Letourneau on drums.

Spending little time on introductions, Kirkland got right into her show, playing songs off her recently released album Indifférence. Her songs, carrying names like “I’ve Been to the Sea” and “So Long El Dorado,” all heavily featured Kirkland’s vocals, as well as her accordion. (…)

Kirkland said a lot of her music is inspired by her experiences and emotions.

“In general it’s an emotion strong enough to make me uncomfortable,” she elaborated. It’s an emotion that’s related to an experience, and then it comes out.”

In addition, Kirkland said she finds inspiration for her texts from songwriters such as Bertold Brecht and Kurt Weill.

The performance was also the first time Kirkland played in Ottawa, having previously performed in Toronto and Montreal. Ottawa, she said, provides a unique opportunity for an artist such as her.

“There’s not as much going on here as in [Toronto or Montreal], but people here are open,” she said.

Despite the low-key nature of her performance, Kirkland was greeted with loud applause at the end of each song, and especially at the end of her show, proving that you don’t need to have a genre to be good. - THE CHARLATAN, Wed, 02/03/2011 (Ottawa) - Oliver Sachgau


D’origine américaine, Gillian Kirk land a fait ses études en français, à Toronto, puis terminé son baccalauréat en français, à Montréal. En anglais ou en français, elle pose sa voix sur des textes qu’elle a composés et s’accompagne à l’accordéon. Originale, bilingue jusqu’à la moelle, Gillian nous parle de son parcours classique avant qu’elle ne choisisse de «faire ses propres affaires».?

Enfant, Gillian étudie à l’école Gabrielle-Roy et participe à des choeurs d’enfants. Elle apprend l’alto, suit quelques cours de piano, mais se destine finalement vers une carrière de chanteuse classique. Elle commence ses études en chant à Toronto puis part pour Montréal ou elle termine son bac.

«En finissant, j’étais dégoûtée du milieu», nous explique-t-elle. Gillian ne fera pas de carrière en chant classique. Elle devient maman et se met donc à composer.

«Je voulais faire des choses en rapport avec notre époque.»

En réaction au côté très quétaine de l’opéra classique et des histoires d’amour à l’eau de rose, elle couche donc sur papier toutes ses idées, de manière chronologique. «À la fin, je me suis ramassée avec un journal d’idées musicales. C’était comme un casse-tête d’idées musicales!»

Et oui, car Gillian Kirland compose séparément la musique et les textes et voit à la fin «s’ils peuvent être amis». Elle ajuste ensuite la musique pour coller au texte.

«Aujourd’hui je commence à avoir un processus délibéré, mais au début c’était vraiment intuitif», se rappelle-t-elle. Mais pourquoi l’accordéon? A-t-on envie de demander! «Il y a un côté dramatique. Et puis ça respire, ça se rapproche du chant.»

Accompagnée d’un violoncelle et d’une clarinette pour certains de ses spectacles, elle tente de trouver l’alchimie, pour que chaque personne de l’ensemble joue quelque chose d’intéressant et qu’il n’y ait pas d’accompagnement.

Samedi soir dernier, elle jouait au Central et s’accompagnait seule à l’accordéon, pour un résultat très sobre et efficace. Le public a également semblé apprécier notre découverte. Gillian, qui habite désormais Ottawa, essaie de venir une fois aux deux mois à Toronto. - L’Express, 23/11/2011 (Toronto) - Guillaume Garcia


Indifférence 2009



Gillian Kirkland is a Canadian singer, accordionist and composer. After completing studies in classical singing, she began to explore composition while experimenting with an accordion. Her music is sometimes described as Neo-Cabaret with influences from both American folk and jazz as well as classical European traditions. She has been involved in numerous collaborations with musicians of various persuasions as well as storytellers, poets and playwrights. She currently lives in Ottawa where she is part of a diverse and evolving arts scene.