It feels like I am still recovering from a week of music performances aligned with Nancy’s annual Jazz Pulsations music festival. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the name of the festival is somewhat of a misnomer, as I really didn’t see too many performances I would have labeled as Jazz. Probably the closest thing to Jazz at the festival for me was a performance by Jan Garbarek & The Hilliard Ensemble.
The performance was at Nancy Cathedral, which is the largest of Nancy’s three main cathedrals. I really can’t think of a more perfect place for this otherworldly music. This performance was in support of the newly released third collaborative album from the group, Officium Novum, on the ECM record label. The only recordings of theirs I am familiar with is 1994’s Officium, which has been one of the most well received releases on the ECM label, and was a hot seller when I worked at my local record shop in college.
Jan Garbarek is a Norwegian saxophonist who has played with Bill Frisell, Charlie Haden, Gary Peacock, Kenny Wheeler, and Keith Jarrett, just to name a few. The Hilliard Ensemble is a vocal quartet specializing in “Early Music”, mainly from the Medieval and Renaissance, but they also have devoted some time to modern contemporaries such as Arvo Pärt and Heiner Goebbels. The five unamplified performers were sensitive to the movements of each other and the audience, and to borrow a term from basketball obliquely, the open acoustics of the Nancy Cathedral acted as the “6th” man of this performance. Echoes reverberated throughout the space as the performers walked through the cathedral and intermixed with the audience. The location notwithstanding, there was a devotional or invocative quality to the performance that is really rewarding, especially in light of my spiritual yet non-religious beliefs.