G!ve’s New Album Steals the Show and Wows Audiences at the Toronto Audiofest

Published by Robert Schryer, this article originally appeared in PMA Magazine on November 27, 2023.

(from left) Stephan Ritch, Le Vibz choir, Caroline St-Louis

One of the highlights at this year’s Toronto Audiofest was the launch of the album Of the Bird, Flying, the new release byMontreal band G!ve (Give), a duo consisting of pianist-singer-songwriter Caroline St-Louis and guitarist-recording engineer Stephan Ritch.

How the album came about is an interesting story. It begins when Caroline was asked by Canada Audiofest organizers to write a song based on the lyrics of a poem that she and Stephan could perform for one of the recipients of the 2017 Montreal Audiofest’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. That recipient? Mark Mandlsohn, owner of Toronto’s famous audio retailer Bay Bloor Radio. The poem? “Journey”, written by Mark’s father, who was a poet but also founded the iconic, and still open, Bay Bloor Radio in 1948. The poem was taken from Sol’s collection of poems, Of the Bird, Flying, which is also the title of Give’s new album.

That’s no coincidence, of course. After Caroline composed the music for “Journey” and Give played it for Mark in what turned out to be an emotional moment at the awards ceremony, Caroline couldn’t stop there. She felt drawn by some force, as she called it, to return to the spring of her inspiration — Sol’s book — and continue to compose music around poems that spoke to her. As she recounted it to me: “Before I knew it, I’d written five more songs. I thought, ‘Okay, maybe I should speak to Mark and see if he’d allow us to make an album of his dad’s poems.” Mark gladly accepted, and joined Give at the Toronto Audiofest to be part of the album launch.

And what an album it is. It’s obvious, when you know the story behind it, that making Of the Bird, Flying was a labour of love. How could it not be? It starts with Sol’s poems and Caroline ‘s devotion, in composing the music around them, to do them justice in a way she felt would make Sol proud. And, in my opinion, she succeeded. The songs are soulful and tastefully arranged, with rich vocals and lyrics written by a poet. Not only that, the album sounds great, as it should when you consider that audio manufacturers KEF, Moon by Simaudio, Marantz, and IsoAcoustics, who, believing in the project and the rightness of it — after all, don’t quality recordings and quality gear go hand-in-hand? — committed their support to it.

(from left) Caroline St-Louis, Mark Mandlsohn, Stephan Ritch

It helped that Stephan Ritch (Steve Hill, Darrell Thorp, Salebarbes) was involved in the recording process. A talented mixer who practices a purist recording approach, Stephan used analogue equipment and ribbon microphones to capture the sonic nuances in his band’s music and even in the sound of the recording space. Once that was done to his satisfaction (Stephan’s a perfectionist like Caroline), the tape was sent to Guy Hébert at Montreal’s Concrete Mastering to be mastered, then to Marc-Olivier Germain at Le Lab Mastering for the vinyl cut, and finally to Toronto’s Standard Vinyl to be pressed in 180gr audiophile-grade vinyl. The result? Pure, warm, rich, intimate sound and a big, spacious soundstage. It could be the next best thing to having the band play live in your listening room.

At the Toronto Audiofest, accompanied by their all-female choir, La Vibz, which Caroline assembled from scratch, Caroline and Stephan treated visitors to live renditions of new songs and signed copies of their album. Everyone was all smiles. It was a joyous event.

For more information about G!ve, or to buy G!ve’s new album, Of the Bird, Flying, click here.

To listen to the album, click on: Spotify, Apple, Tidal, or YouTube.