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Sergiu Popa: accordion

Sergiu Popa
Photo: Studios Avant-Garde, 2009

Sergiu was born in 1981, in Chisinau, Moldova. He had completed his studies at Stefan Neaga music college as well as two years of studies at the Conservatory of Moldova before emigrating to Canada in 2002. Since childhood, he also simultaneously studied traditional folk and Roma (Gypsy) styles with his father, Ion Popa, himself a well-recognized Gypsy accordionist in Moldova. Over many years of playing alongside his father at weddings, he became familiar with Jewish, Turkish, Serbian and Bulgarian styles as well. Despite his young age, he is quickly establishing a reputation as one of most brilliant accordionists in Canada today. He has co-founded the Sergiu Popa Ensemble with his wife (violinist Jessica Gal), a group that was discovered by Musique Multi-Montréal, a reputable world music agency in Montreal, in 2006. Since then, the Ensemble has performed at numerous festivals and concert series in Quebec, and was selected to receive the 2007 Radio-Canada Étoiles Galaxie award. In 2008/09, Sergiu Popa was the ‘artist-in-residence’ of the Circuit 514 (now renamed Prix Diversité), a partnership between CBC Radio 2, the Place des Arts, the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, Montréal Arts Interculturels and Vision Diversité.

Jessica Gal: violin

Jessica Gal, violin
Photo: Studios Avant-Garde, 2009

Jessica Gal was born in Montreal, in 1974. She has studied violin since the age of 4, and pursued her classical training with Johanne Arel and Raymond Dessaints at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal until 1991. She performed extensively as a member of the Conservatory’s youth orchestra, a member of the Jeunesses Musicales de Suisse orchestra in 1992 and was frequently hired to accompany musical theatre productions in Montreal. Choosing to explore a different musical orientation, she studied traditional Irish and Scottish music for several years, developing her skills through traditional music sessions held in Montreal’s Irish pubs. She performed at several Celtic music festivals, was hired to accompany dancers at traditional Irish dance competitions and taught fiddle to adults and children at the Siamsa school of Irish music for 10 years. In 2002, feeling the urge to explore her own Hungarian and Jewish roots, she shifted her attention to traditional styles of Eastern Europe. Having met her husband, accordionist Sergiu Popa, they soon formed a partnership and have been performing together professionally since 2003.

Rémy Sealey: percussion

Remy Sealey, percussion
Photo: Studios Avant-Garde, 2009

Rémy Sealey spent most of his childhood summers at the CAMMAC music centre in the Laurentians, where he was introduced to Orff, African percussion and Balinese Gamelan. The latter spawned a particular interest in Asian percussion. At the age of 13 he participated in the University of Montreal's Giri Kedaton gamelan ensemble (2001). He later played traditional Chinese Lion Dance drumming on TV stations such as TVA and Global (2007). CAMMAC was also the place where Rémy met Sergiu Popa in 2005, and eventually became a member of the group. Rémy is a recent graduate of Vanier College's classical percussion music program. His background and main focus, however, remain in the realm of world music. He as also produced electronic music for websites and participated as a turntablist in productions such as pianist Matt Herskowitz's album, Forget Me Not (2005).

Samito Matsinhe: piano, kalimba

Samito Matsinhe, piano
Photo: Studios Avant-Garde, 2009

Samito was born in Maputo, Mozambique, and grew up in a musical environment, where he was introduced to music at an early age. At seven he was enrolled at the National School of Music in Maputo where he studied Piano and Percussion. He began his career at the age of fifteen and since then, had the opportunity to perform and/or record with artists such as Lorraine Klassen, Sara Tavares, Arthur Maia, Stewart Sukuma among others. He has performed in Belgium, Brazil, Finland, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, Sweden and USA.
Since he moved to Montréal in 2005, Samito has completed his music degree at McGill University, and has been working on a regular basis with artists such as Sergiu Popa, Lorraine Klassen, Harold Faustin, Ouanani, Kweku and the Movement.

Roman Manolache, bass

Roman Manolache, bass
Photo: Studios Avant-Garde, 2009

Roman is a very gifted bassist from Moldova. He began his studies at the age of 6, at the Ciprian Porumbescu Music School, and graduated in 1997. He then studied at the national Conservatory until 2002, when he became the principle bass player in first the State Symphony Orchestra of Moldova and then the National Chamber Orchestra. After several years of performing in hotels in France and Italy and on cruise ships, he emigrated to Canada in 2008 in search of new opportunities. Roman is the newest member of the Sergiu Popa Ensemble.

Marina Negruta, vocalist

Marina Negruta, voice
Photo: Studios Avant-Garde, 2009

Born in Moldova, Marina studied music first at the Stefan Neaga College of Music, then the Conservatory of Chisinau, between 1992 and 2006. She specialized in choral studies and conducting. Marina has toured in several European countries (Switzerland, France, Spain and Poland) with ‘Gloria’, a reputable choir from Moldova. She has also received several awards for her singing: 1st prize (vocalist category) in the ‘Prix du République’ competition, 2003, and two-time winner (2006, 2007) in the ‘Cizantema de Argint’ competition (Moldova). She emigrated to Canada in 2007, has two young children, and now appears with the Sergiu Popa Ensemble in concerts and music festivals across Quebec.