Seventeen Voyces brings the Italian Baroque – and theorbo – to Ottawa

Photo: The composer Monteverdi, by painter Bernardo Strozzi (circa 1630)

By Clare Jackson


Ottawa’s premier chamber choir Seventeen Voyces will bring a seldom-heard instrument to Ottawa this month with a concert featuring music of the Italian Baroque era. Montreal-based guitarist and tenor Kerry Bursey will delight early-music lovers in this concert that will feature the theorbo, an Italian instrument from the lute family. The concert will present the music of Claudio Monteverdi and some of his contemporaries, in partnership with frequent Seventeen Voyces collaborators, the Ottawa Baroque Consort.

The concert will take place on Sunday, February 25, at 4 p.m. at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church (Glebe Avenue and Bank Street). Tickets are $30 for adults, $20 for students and free for children 12 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at or at the door by cash, credit and debit.

Monteverdi, born in Italy around the year 1567, was a composer, choirmaster and string player. He is perhaps best known for his early contributions to the development of opera, with his composition L’Orfeo remaining the earliest opera that is still performed regularly today. Monteverdi’s musical career spanned the Renaissance and Baroque musical eras, and offers music with dance-like rhythms and lush harmonies. The concert will include Monteverdi’s charming and elegant “Beatus Vir” (“Blessed is the man” from the Book of Psalms), the energetic “Gloria a 7” (Gloria for 7 voices), and the contrasting, lovelorn Italian madrigal “Hor che’l ciel, e la terra” (“Now, that heaven and earth”).

Monteverdi was the choirmaster at the Basilica of San Marco in Venice for 30 years before his death in 1643. Works by two of his students from this time, Giovanni Rigatti and Francesco Cavalli, will also be featured on the concert program. Cavalli, a prolific composer himself, wrote more than 40 operas and succeeded Monteverdi as the leading composer of the genre by the mid-1600s.

Bursey is an early-music specialist who won the Grand Prix de Guitare de Montréal in 2011. A guitarist, lutenist and tenor, Bursey performs regularly as a soloist with early music groups such as Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal and the Theatre of Early Music, as well as his own group Ménestrel. He has been featured on many albums with labels including ATMA Classique and Deutsche Grammaphon.

For this concert, Bursey will play the theorbo, a 16th-century plucked string instrument with an elongated neck. Theorbos can reach over six feet in length, and Bursey’s theorbo features a hinge so that the neck can be folded for easier transportation. Fans of early music will be delighted to experience this unique instrument in live performance.

Seventeen Voyces is also pleased to welcome back the Ottawa Baroque Consort, led by cellist Olivier Henchiri, for this concert. The group, established in 2005, plays on period instruments and specializes in the repertoire of the Baroque and Classical eras. The concert will also feature many solos by members of Seventeen Voyces. The choir, a fixture of the Ottawa choral community for over a quarter of a century, is led by founder and director Kevin Reeves. Seventeen Voyces features handpicked singers from Ottawa and surrounding areas who are seasoned choristers and soloists.

Join us on February 25 for what promises to be a fantastic afternoon of music with Seventeen Voyces, the Ottawa Baroque Consort and Kerry Bursey.

Audiences can also mark their calendars for Seventeen Voyces’ last concert of their 2023-24 season, presenting Music of Hungary with violinist Ralitsa Tcholakova and organist Matthew Larkin. The concert will be held on Friday, May 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the marvelous acoustic at St. Francis of Assisi Church (20 Fairmont Avenue).


Clare Jackson is a singer and board member with Seventeen Voyces.


Seventeen Voyces concert, with Ottawa Baroque Consort

Sunday, February 25, 2024 at 4 p.m.

St Matthew’s Anglican Church, Glebe at Bank

Tickets online at or at the door


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