Montreal jazz singer to reprise her Dark Divas show for Festival de la Voix

It has been four years since Ranee Lee gave the performance of her lifetime. Her husband and musical partner Richard Ring passed away that morning. That evening at The Montreal International Jazz Festival, Richard was by her side in spirit and continues walking alongside Ranee every day.

“It conjures up a lot of the memories because under normal circumstances it would have been a quiet time with family.” Ranee explains. “I think of my musicians and audience as family anyways – so it was more of a celebration to immortalize Richard’s passing and the time he spent with us and his genius. It was something I had to do, it was difficult but the love was what carried me through.”

Richard Ring passed away in palliative care and although his death was imminent, Ranee’s ‘going on with the show’ was not something they discussed. “Seconds before he passed, I sang to him the tunes I planned to sing that night. I sang in his ear until his passing. It was a beautiful moment compelled by love. He shed one single tear and then went to sleep.” Ranee and Richard accompanied each other in music and in life and anything they did was encompassed by music. The evening of his passing was the opportune moment for Ranee to celebrate his life the most.

“Music is very soulful and a person’s personality is an extension of their soul.” Said Ranee during our recent conversation.. “You don’t have to be the great musician or artist, if it is genuine and you pass that generous feeling on – it is a passion that is hard to describe. The knowledge and academics great sources, but the reality is how you interpret it and share it.”

Ranee Lee has been teaching at McGill University for over twenty five years. It’s special for her students to have a member of The Order of Canada, a playwright, a multi – award winning singer, mother and grandmother leading the way.

“One of the things I teach is that music is a living breathing organism. It has all the elements of feel, language, pulse and rhythm. It has all the elements a living person has.”

Kerry-Anne Kutz

Talented vocalist Kerry-Anne Kutz is the
Festival de la Voix Founder

Auto tune is an electronic device that can correct a singer’s pitch. It’s the opposite to authentic human behavior, and is used widely by performers today. According to the two time Jazz vocalist of the year – Lee says auto tune has always been around and it is a good thing to sell records and to market oneself. Ranee has never used auto tune herself.

“It’s something that has existed for a long time because everyone wants to be perfect. It’s marketing of course, but live music is where you judge a performance. It is total communication with an audience or fellow traveler. Auto tune is a good thing to attract a listener but then you must be authentic in real life. All the senses are at work during a live show, the senses cannot be fooled.”

Ranee recalls seeing Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers performing their hit song Why Do Fools Fall In Love as her first concert. Rhythm and Blues was the bench mark at that time, but Ranee was always involved in many genres of music. As a youngster, Lee was enrolled in plays from kindergarten to church and music was not new.

The Juno Award winner sees a lot of herself in her students. ‘When students come into the music performance program, they come with a passion – they want to sing, they want to perform. I focus on guiding them on their levels, picking up information and applying it to their ability. I cannot prepare them for everything in life – I give them a bag of tools and then it’s up to them. Passion is what can carry them.”

Ranee Lee’s passion and talent will have her perform as part of Festival de la Voix on April 2nd. She will be performing the songs from her Dark Divas project exclusively; highlighting the women who made a difference to Ranee and singers all over the world. Her late husband Richard Ring will undoubtedly be by her side.

Festival de la Voix: March 19 – April 10

By Janis Kirshner and Peter Kerr

Since Kerry-Anne Kutz organized the first Festival de la Voix nine years ago, she is delighted that the “little festival that could” will return with live concerts and workshops after a two year Covid hiatus. Starting on March 19, the ninth annual Festival de la Voix will promote live music, Canadian composers and musicians, professional and emerging artists in seven eclectic concerts and four exceptional workshops, as well as special presentations for high school music students. From March 19 to April 10 in the West Island (Dorval, Beaconsfield, Pointe-Claire, Hudson) and for the first time in Westmount at the Unitarian Church, Festival de la Voix Founder and Artistic Director Kerry-Anne Kutz welcomes people from all over the city to explore, enjoy and celebrate the beauty, versatility and power of music and the human voice.

Le Choeur du chambre du Québec

Le Choeur du chambre du Québec uplifts their audiences
Photo: MC Lapointe

“I’m delighted that we have survived the pandemic, and that we are able to return presenting live performances. All of the performers are exceptional, and they have been waiting two years for this.” Continuing, Kerry-Anne makes a point to thank the Festival’s sponsors and those who provided guidance and moral support; “We could not have survived these past two years without the continued support of so many organizations and people. Mécénat Musica, Heritage Canada, The Azrieli Foundation, Marc Boucher from Festival Classica, PME-MTL, the cities of Dorval, Pointe-Claire and Beaconsfield, Rideau Funeral Home, Gerentologis and the many, many private donors who kept us in their hearts – we made it because of their donations, advice and moral support.”

Prestigious Award Winners, returning favourites, family concerts, choirs and workshops

Kerry-Anne Kutz is ecstatic to bring performers and audiences together again, “This chance to prepare, to join musical colleagues, and to play their music is of utmost importance to our artists; to all artists.”

Imani Gospel Singers

The Imani Gospel Singers will perform their authentic Gospel music

This year’s diverse mix of styles and voices includes shows like CHORALISSIMO! highlighting two superb choirs—Le Choeur de chambre du Québec directed by Robert Ingari and Phoebus Men’s Choir directed by Roseline Blain; the Grand Concert featuring mezzo-soprano Florence Bourget with harpist Valérie Milot, and Sainte-Anne Singers & Philomela Singers directed by Margo Keenan; Oliver Forest and the authentic spiritual music of Imani Gospel Singers; They Sing Everything! with energetic, emerging talents singing Broadway, opera and pop; a show dedicated to seniors—Dark Divas by acclaimed vocalist, actor, songwriter Ranee Lee sharing songs from the great voices of the African American vocal tradition including Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald; Steel Rail playing their special blend of ‘folkgrass’ music; and the Concert Vox Aeterna featuring soprano Frédéricka Petit-Homme and Montreal’s first culturally diverse symphony orchestra, Ensemble Obiora, bringing a new voice to classical music in Canada.

The festival also offers school concerts, an invaluable way to encourage children to engage with live performance. This year it’s the musical ensemble of Les Fusiliers de Mont-Royal. Kerry-Anne acknowledges how important it is to have so many culturally diverse singers and instrumentalists performing the music of such a wide variety of composers and world-renowned artists; “We are addressing a vital need to see diversity on stage. Ensemble Obiora, Ranee Lee, Imani Gospel Singers and our workshop clinician Dr. Claudel Callender are examples of the presence of the high calibre of black musicians in our community.”

Steel Rail

Steel Rail will perform their folkgrass music and sweet harmonies

From Brandyn Lewis, artistic director of Ensemble Obiora, “We are thrilled to be making our first appearance at Festival de la Voix which always features such talented artists. This concert will provide an opportunity for us to expand our repertoire to include music for voice, and to program unfamiliar works by composers of colour whose contributions have gone unnoticed.”

Robert Ingari is the director of Le Choeur de chambre du Québec, part of this year’s CHORALISSIMO! Concert. “The 17 members of the choir and pianist Carmen Picard are delighted to finally be able to share the stage together and impart our love for new music composed to beautiful French texts. Our evocative program, rich in colour and harmony, will showcase the talents of all our members, some of whom will also play an instrument on stage. Long live singing and long live Festival de la Voix!” he declared. Festival organizer Kerry-Anne Kutz adds; “The Choeur de chambre de Quebec has the most beautiful repertoire… they send you away feeling uplifted and recharged.”

Festival Workshops

Outstanding workshops on offer this year are Breath and the Basics of Good Singing with Dr. Claudel Callender focusing on alignment, breath, vowels, phrasing and falsetto; Acting and Physicalizing Text with Centaur Theatre Artistic Director, Eda Holmes concentrating on portraying the lyrics in the song by exploring mental and physical flexibility, spontaneity, and the many emotions evoked; Songwriting with JUNO Award-winner Connie Kaldor, touching on the main elements of rhythm, melody and lyrics, and culminating with a new song; and Advanced Choral Techniques with choir master Philippe Bourque working on tone production, phrasing and performance practices for a number of chosen pieces. Workshop scholarships are available upon request to those in need, particularly teenagers and young adults who don’t have the opportunity to study privately.

Festival de la Voix is unique–including concerts and workshops for people of all ages, from grade school to senior citizens. The festival’s mandate is to bring various communities together to celebrate music and the coming of spring.

Festival de la Voix 9th edition will continue from March 19 to April 10. For complete festival program, dates, venues and artist information, please visit Tickets for matinee and evening shows range from $20-$30; and workshops are $30-$40. For further information: 514-758-3641 [email protected]