Baroque and beautiful!

The Ottawa Baroque Consort will perform Beautiful Monsters, with host David Brennan, at the National Gallery on January 25. Photo: OBC

By Lisa Wall

Although Christmas may be over, “you’d still better watch out” if you visit the National Gallery of Canada this January 25. Why? Because there be monsters. Beautiful monsters!

The monsters will creep off their canvasses that day and come to life in a one-time performance in the gallery’s auditorium, featuring the Glebe’s own Ottawa Baroque Consort and hosted by master-storyteller David Brennan.

Fusing three art forms, the performance alternates between stories, music and art. A full Baroque orchestra on stage and large-screen projections of the artwork make this a tightly-coordinated production.

“This is shaping up to be our most dramatic show in our 15-year history,” says artistic director Olivier Henchiri.

Monsters are already on display at the gallery, in a special exhibition titled Beautiful Monsters in Early European Prints and Drawings (1450–1700), which runs until March 29.

The January show is a new take on Greek and Roman mythology, written by Henchiri and Jacinthe Hudon. Glebe residents may be familiar with their work – they were the playwrights behind Voyage to America, Counterfeit! and other plays. “I loved listening to stories and myths as a child,” says Jacinthe. “Now I get to revisit them and add my own spin.”

Host David Brennan is a stand-up comedian and storyteller from Hamilton who now lives in Ottawa. The consort heard him perform at a local Ottawa Storytellers show and immediately tracked him down at intermission. As executive director of the consort, I thought he was perfect for the part – his storytelling verges on the theatrical; we knew right away he could do the monsters justice.

The fit was not fortuitous; it turns out Brennan has had a lifetime fascination with monsters. “I was absolutely obsessed with the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a kid,” he says. “I had the VHS, the book and even the score on CD. Working with the consort and their selections for our Beautiful Monsters show really is a dream come true artistically. Little kid David would think this was very, very cool.”

The consort’s multidisciplinary concerts have garnered quite a following over the past few years. “People know they’re in for a powerful experience,” says Henchiri. “In a way, this brings Baroque music back to its roots – word painting, stirring the passions and moving people emotionally.”

The performance is a matinee at 2 p.m. on Saturday, January 25 at the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Drive. Admission is $30 at the door, $27 in advance and $15 for students. Tickets are available at, or by calling 613-400-1511.

Lisa Wall is a clarinettist and executive director of the Ottawa Baroque Consort. She can be reached at

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