|Photo courtesy of ThOrN.|
There are plenty of roses growing in the Ottawa-valley region and with those roses come many thorns. Together Cellist Marion Arthur and pianist Nicolette Lagace comprise ThOrN. The classical grunge music they create, while sharp enough to draw blood, is simply too hip for the conservative community where they reside. Yet that hasn’t stopped these talented girls from branching out and finding audiences in Ottawa and beyond.
Both Arthur and Lagace are classically trained in the performance of their respective instrument and come from musical families.
Arthur studied at the University of Toronto where some days she would practice for six hours on top of playing in ensembles, orchestras and attending classes. While thankful for the solid classical background she has from attending U of T, Arthur found that, like many who reside in the Ottawa-valley, the school faculty had conservative attitudes towards music.
“I performed some of my own songs in my third year recital, but my jury of two seasoned, classical musicians was not impressed,” Arthur laughs.
Arthur now utilizes her experiences as a student to teach with Kindermusik; a music and movement program for children aged 0-7 and their parents.
“Children are exposed to songs, percussion instruments and dances in class. This helps support their brain development by challenging them in many ways and is just plain fun for parents and children alike,” Arthur said.
Lagace was snared by all things symphonic at an early age. While attending a Christian school as a child she took a liking to tickling the ivories. She began piano classes at age 9 and eventually enrolled in Royal Conservatory classical piano lessons.
“That was my parent’s way of instilling and fertilizing those talents,” Lagace said.
The two met when Lagace was looking for a cellist to appear on her last solo album, Love in a Box. Lagace was impressed by Arthur’s cello lines and they decided to create a new project, giving rise to ThOrN.
“ThOrN is a project that started as recognition that Nic and I have a similar emotional vibe,” Arthur said. “Both Nic and I write quite dark music and the piano and cello create an ethos that is compelling. Even though I'm revisiting songs that I played as MEA [Arthur’s solo moniker], Nicolette brings an organic darkness to the project that wasn't there on my album Cocoon to Butterfly. I feel like the emotional landscapes are greater than I've created in the past.”
Lagace agrees saying that the music she created with her former band was mostly prog rock-based and ThOrN is more low-key. The label of classical grunge came about because the duo feels their music is a combination of classical, rock, pop and progressive rock.
While innovative and interesting, ThOrN’s music isn’t what most communities in the Ottawa-valley are up for.
“It’s definitely a challenge here” Lagace said. “In Pembroke and the small surrounding areas there are not a lot of venues that are open-minded to what we offer. Even for my previous band it was always a challenge to try and find a show. People here just weren’t sure because it wasn’t cover tunes or country music. It was something totally off the wall for this area.”