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Olga Ossipova took a roundabout jourrney from classical music to jazz and from Russia to Canada
Olga Ossipova took a roundabout
journey from classical music to
jazz and from Russia to Canada.

Olga Osipova - Freedom to Sing

This Russian artist followed her musical passion to a new life, a debut album and a BC Interior Music Award

By Shelley Gummeson

You could say it was a case of triple w seduction.  Olga Osipova was seduced by the warmth of the weather, the water and the wine of British Columbia’s Okanagan region.  It reminded her of Italy, she said, and so she stayed.  Olga’s journey has not only been one of miles from her native Russia to Germany then to Canada.  It also has been a journey of self discovery and musical freedom.

At that time in Russia, you are not a musician, if you are not a classical musician

As a child in her native St. Petersburg, Russia, Olga Osipova was afforded some of the best instruction in classical piano, with the hopeful expectation of her famous concert pianist uncle that she would follow the same path.  When Olga was asked about her musical history this was her reply.  “Yes, I have an uncle who is a famous concert pianist in Europe, and this was his vision for me.”   Did Olga share that vision?  She takes a breath and says, “I think, that I didn’t have a choice. Since I was 6 years old, that is the only thing I knew.”  When it was suggested that she led a bit of a charmed life as a youngster, she continues to share her thoughts, “Maybe, but there was pressure that not many kids experienced. I feel I didn’t have a childhood, because there was always this pressure to be perfect, to perform.  It was good in that you got to learn so much from really great people, but at that age,” she tapers off, “at that age maybe you need a little less of that.”

Velvet and Lace is Olga Osipova’s debut album.  She won the BC Interior Music Award for Jazz Artist of the Year
Olga won the 2008 BC
Interior Music Award
for Jazz Artist of
the Year

As a young burgeoning classical pianist, Olga Osipova listened to classical music and opera.  At age fourteen she fell in love with the Beatles who were at the time an  underground phenomena.  In addition she listened to the music her mother enjoyed, Russian singer songwriters, a kind of gypsy romance music.   These are some of the sounds that laid the bass influence for her songwriting in the future. 

Olga made the choice to leave the classical life behind. She studied linguistics in Russia and Germany.  While completing her PhD. studies in Germany, Olga was quick to see that people could also study music and make a living at it, but it was not classical music.    “At that time in Russia, you are not a musician, if you are not a classical musician,” Olga says. She added music to her slate and started her journey of self discovery.

�I felt good. There is so much joy and freedom here.

 Her first introduction to jazz was through her uncle.  “My uncle had this recording of Oscar Peterson improvising over classical melodies.  It simply blew me away.  You could take this Mozart tune and play it in a way a classical musician never would. There was so much freedom and passion in it. Then he would improvise over that.”  The desire to explore music consumed her as she tried to find her musical style and voice. The discovery of her singing voice came haphazardly, while she was fooling around with a friend and was imitating the voices of Orthodox priests.  Olga smilingly says, “If you’ve ever heard those guys, they sing in those very loud, bass voices.”  She goes on, “It’s really amazing.  I think there is some weird energy about that.  In Russia if you want to be a priest you actually have to audition for singing. So if you are a great guy and would be a great priest but cannot sing, they would not take you.” She laughs and explains that she had tried to push her voice into the soprano range, which was uncomfortable.  So for fun she sang like the priests and her friend who was a soprano opera singer said she had never heard a woman sing so low. This was another discovery for Olga, about her natural talents. She also found she loved another style of music as well, the German cabaret music, like that of Marlene Dietrich and French chassion as well.  Into the mix add her love of writing music and lyrics, now also inOlga Ossipova took a roundabout jourrney from classical music to jazz and from Russia to Canada
As a songwriter, Olga likes to
evoke the emotion of the image
she writes about.
German and English. It all began to settle together.  There was only one piece of the puzzle left for Olga to put into place.

“I saw limitations in Germany” she says.  “In terms of what you can learn, well you just don’t meet jazz musicians on every corner.  I wanted to immerse myself in that style of music and to write in English, which I thought was not good enough at that time.”  Olga continues, “I visited Canada, because a travelled a lot.  I was blown away because the country felt so free. The people were friendly and supportive and I felt I could learn here.  I felt good. There is so much joy and freedom here.”  It was a calling she says.  Olga came in part, for the freedom to learn more about jazz from people who she says really know about it.

Living in BC has fanned the creative fires for Olga Osipova.  She claims she has written more here than anywhere.  When you combine her love of gypsy, German cabaret, French chaisson, classical, and jazz music you come up with the recipe for her album Velvet and Lace. A self described romantic cosmopolitan, she says she tries to evoke strong emotion with her music.  Her writing style is visual and she sees the scene and then writes the lyrics.  The album, Velvet and Lace lends itself to those movie images in your head of a smoky European cabaret and a femme fatale in the spot or the lonely figure under the greasy glow of a lamppost. 

Wielding her own considerable talent and also, an ability to find top notch local musicians to work with, garnered her the BC Interior Music Award for Jazz Artist of the Year.  Not to mention the cd cover design of Velvet and Lace by Scott Gamble was recognized with an award as well.

With more of that Okanagan sunshine, the sound of the water and of course the wine, Olga Osipova will no doubt continue to blossom beautifully.  Not unlike the flowers she loves to paint. for concert listings.

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