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The men of Olga will perform this Sat­urday at 8 p.m. in College Baptist | Courtesy

Music, laughter, and five European men will fill the stage of College Baptist Church this Sat­urday.

The Olga Vocal Ensemble will be per­forming Feb. 11 at 8:00 p.m. as part of the college’s Per­forming Artist Series. The group was founded in 2012 at the Utrechts Con­ser­va­torium in the Nether­lands, and two years later, they recorded their first album of songs which ranged from jazz to oldies, pop to clas­sical.

In addition to a wide variety of music, Olga is also known for adding humor to their per­for­mances.

“We like to keep the con­certs light-hearted. Not all of our songs are funny, but when they are funny, we try to make the most of it,” Philip Barkhu­darov said. “We do a lot of talking during our con­certs, we introduce our songs, we introduce our­selves; we like to make jokes and make fun of our­selves. It kind of breaks the ice with the audience.”

The ensemble is com­prised of five men who hail from all over Europe: Bjarni Guð­mundsson, tenor; Jonathan Ploeg, tenor; Gulian van Nierop, baritone; Pétur Odd­bergur Heimisson, bass-baritone; and Philip Barkhu­darov, bass.

The ensemble will also be hosting a master class for stu­dents in Howard Music Hall Feb. 11 at 11:00 a.m.

“We’re preparing a couple a cap­pella pieces with the men of the big choir to perform and be coached by the men of Olga,” Music Director James Holleman said.  “It’s a shared expe­rience of the stu­dents.”

This shared expe­rience can be used a common knowledge ref­erence point when an ensemble is strug­gling later in the year, Holleman added.

Although only men will be par­tic­i­pating in the master class, all stu­dents are welcome to watch.

“I’m excited to hear them,” said sophomore Tom Ryskamp, who sings bass in the Chamber Choir. “They’re pro­fes­sionals; I really want to hear them. I think it will be really cool to be singing for them.”

Hearing from experts is exciting, Ryskamp added.

“It puts your own talent in per­spective,” he said. “It gives you a goal. You think, ‘These are the great people. If I want to be great, I need to be like them.’”

In the master class, Olga plans to work on tempo, tuning, breathing, and blend with the student choir, Barkhu­darov said.

Barkhu­darov cites har­mo­nizing as a special chal­lenge in a cap­pella, or unac­com­panied, music.

“In a small group, one person per part, you can never just sit back and cruise along,” he said, noting the absence of an instru­mental accom­pa­niment as a base to work from. “Every one of you has to be there 100 percent of the time.”

Although Olga has toured before, this is their first time touring in the U.S.

“Per­sonally, I’ve never been any­where near Michigan,” said Barkhu­darov. “I’m very curious. I think there’s a strong choir culture there, as far as I know.”

Trav­eling so much together leads to a more intimate ensemble, Barkhu­darov said. Being with each other all the time, com­pared to a larger choir, leads to a lot of inside jokes. These jokes can help add to the humor of their shows.

One such joke is their mascot, a red kettle called Ketill Olguson.

Olga tours with their mascot, a red kettle. | Courtesy

“Ketill is a real Ice­landic first name, and then Olguson means ‘son of Olga,’” Barkhu­darov said. “We dis­covered Ketill in the library of the Utrechts Con­ser­va­torium where we all studied, when we were filming our first promo video. Most of the video was impro­vised, and at some point Pétur picked up this red kettle and carried it around during some scenes.”

They then started taking the kettle to con­certs, and it was even­tually donated to them by the library.

“We like the play­fulness of it,” Barkhu­darov said.

Their audience does too, he added, and that’s what really matters.

“We have a good time together anyway, and when we’re on stage we have a good time together,” he said. “The audience sees that. If we’re having a good time, they also have a good time.”

To find more infor­mation on the Olga Vocal Ensemble, find them on Facebook or go to www.olgavocalensemble.com.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    ????? What, is this?