Folk trio The O’Pears are including Red Deer on their ‘Stay Warm’ tour with a stop at Knox Presbyterian Church on Dec. 14th.
Meg Contini, Jill Harris and Lydia Persaud are also gearing up to release their latest CD, also titled Stay Warm, in early December. The album is a rich and terrific listening experience featuring the women’s melodic, seamless harmonies.
The Toronto-based group, who originally met while studying at Humber College, indeed weave stories that stir the spirit and capture the timeless character of folk music. Their debut disc, Like Those Nights, was released in 2016.
“We met in music school at Humber in the jazz program,” recalls Contini, who hails from Calgary. “A bunch of students had started this band and we randomly were selected and asked to join. So we sang in that band for about four years,” she recalled.
Over time, that particular band began to dwindle, but Contini, Harris and Persaud realized they really enjoyed singing together. So they simply kept it up.
“We were also all writing music which was in a similar, more folky genre. So we said we should just keep doing this, keep on singing together.” So the O’Pears have been together for about six years, but really the ladies have been singing together for about 10.
“We do things that we geek out about, and that we think are cool and fun. And then for some people, it just hits them and it’s a very emotional experience. For us, it’s emotional, too.
“We’ve also been singing together for so long, that it’s really all the little things, too. We know each other’s tricks, so we can then grab onto them and follow them,” she adds of when they perform. “It adds a different element as well.”
Ultimately, they are a dynamic, engaging trio but will add other musicians into the mix depending on the type of performance they want to dive into. As Contini explains, the magic of intricate harmony tends to lead listeners into a whole other zone.
It’s almost like a relaxing tonic for frazzled nerves, particularly at this time of year. And that’s where the new disc comes in.
With Stay Warm, Contini said they wanted to create a winter/holiday album that didn’t fall within the often typical kind of glittery seasonal offering.
“This album was really focused – we really had a concept for this one,” she explained. “Every year, we play a holiday show. And also, listening to holiday music, they pump it through the malls for two months of the year and a lot of it is bright and jingly. But the holidays aren’t always like that.
“So we wanted more original, seasonal stuff to give people another option and to give ourselves another outlet. We also wanted something that was a little more honest, and a little more varied and broad in what it captures.
“We all had some big changes that happend around last Christmas, so after those holidays, we were thinking about how we actually felt about the season. The winter takes up so much of our time,” she said, adding the lengthy season can even present some folks with mental health issues. “It’s tough, and when you’ve lost someone you are reminded all of the time of what is missing.
“We wanted to make an album that kind of explored all of that. There is the warm, fuzzy stuff. There is bittersweet stuff. Painful stuff. We wanted to get all of that in one (project) rather than glossing it over with tinsel and holly,” she added with a laugh.
For Contini, a love for singing reaches back to childhood. She sang with choirs over the years, and when it came time to pick a career path she initially considered engineering or architecture. But a passion for music was irrepressible.
So off to Humber she ventured, and as they say, the rest is history. “I went to music school and I’m really glad I did.”
Meanwhile, the O’Pears have performed at Canadian festivals including Summerfolk, Wolfe Island, and the Lunenburg Folk Harbour Festival and garnered radio play across Canada including on the CBC.
In 2017, they toured across Europe, performing in centuries-old churches.
“There is something I think that we all connect with, where it was something that we never really had a choice with,” said Contini of the group’s passion for what they do. “It’s such an outlet, and an amazing, creative way to sort out your feelings and emotions.
“It’s also a way to connect with other people, and to connect with their experiences, too.”