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Home > Main > Surprise Vocale à la Francaise: Ensemble 101

Surprise Vocale à la Francaise: Ensemble 101

by Mike Solomon, singer with Ensemble 101 (France; pronounce: “Emsemble Five”)

The Ensemble 101sings. They also speak, grunt, whistle, bark, snort, and chirp. Their music celebrates a multicultural, transgressive and transgendered society whose plurality is navigated effortlessly through virtual networks. Constantly mixing high and low brow, they have no scruples being simultaneously radical and reactionary through their recordings and staged shows.Most of the members of the Ensemble 101 met in le Palais Royal, a Baroque music group directed by Jean-Philippe Sarcos.  Mike Solomon, the contralto and composer of the group, returned to the Palais Royal for a second stint after having taught in America for a year.  “Coming back to France, I knew that I wanted to form a group.  I already knew Eudes Peyre, whose voice I love, and I was on the lookout for other singers who I could work with to create something new.” Eudes felt the same way: “Working with Mike was always great and I was excited to work with him in this new project.  As a young professional starting out, it’s important for me to be in an ensemble where we’re all friends.  Rehearsals are very efficient and yet fun and casual.”

Soprano Marie Perbost was the next to join the group.  Marie says, “What I love about the Ensemble 101 is that it situates itself in a unique place in French a cappella.  No other group in our milieu composes all of their own stuff.  Mike writes for my voice, not for some abstract soprano.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I’m creating and not just executing a style.”  Ryan Veillet joined the group soon after: “I was working with a number of different ensembles when I met Mike.  When I’d perform new music with these ensembles, there was very little rehearsal time and little to no interaction with the composers. It’s refreshing to be a part of a truly collaborative effort where the composers’ intentions and our contributions become indistinguishable.”Elsa Dreisig, a friend of Marie’s, was the last member to join the gang.  “I think what matters most to all of us in the project – the reason we’re in it and the reason we’re so passionate about it – is the music,” she says.  “Not just because we like singing and creating it, but because it flies in the face of common wisdom about new music and accessibility.  Rather than seeing things as a tradeoff between authenticity and popularity, we said to ourselves that if we pushed ourselves to the limit of our artistic sensibilities, people would appreciate what we do not in spite of but because of our commitment to the aesthetic that we believe in.”

Florian Städtler (Vocal Blog editor) on ensemble 101′s music: “It’s not easy to describe this group’s style in a few lines. One thing I know for sure: They absolutely unique in what they are doing and they easily cross the boundaries of standard “contemporary a cappella”. A wonderful mix of sounds, theatrical elements, virtuoso singing and Zappa-meets-Bobs-meet-McFerrin humour. Well, not exactly easy listening, folks. And a punch in the face of all top40 (collegiate) vocal music lovers. This is vocal art that takes ensemble singing to places that most of the regular a cappella people haven’t even even dared to think of. Ensemble 101 is a musical treasure chest, that will have one half of the audience running away in terror, and leave the other half in speechless fascination and praise. Another gem in the Pan-European mix of vocal styles and a cappella cultures. “

The future is looking bright for the group.  They have several concerts lined up for their inaugural season in 2013 and they are rehearsing and recording new work all the time as they build up a fan base on their Facebook page and share their recordings on YouTube.

Mike Solomon holds degrees in music composition from The University of Florida, Queen’s University Belfast, and Stanford University. After a yearlong Visiting Professorship at The University of Florida, he is currently the Composer in Residence at the Dunkirk conservatory in France and contralto in the Palais Royal. Mike is also an active theorist and music technologist and has presented articles on analysis and engraving at several national and international conferences.
Mike is the recipient of the Italian Institute of Culture’s Unique Forms of Continuity in Space Composition Prize, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Composition Prize and the Erik Stokes Prize. His music has been played at festivals such as the Festival For New American Music, the Boston New Music Initiative, Sounds New, the Society of Composers, Inc. National Conference, Twelve Nights, and the International Computer Music Conference. The city of Saint-Chamond has presented two portrait concerts of his music and he has recently been commissioned to write an opera for London’s Iris Theatre Company.

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