Formed in 2011 by front man Benjamin Hackman, The Holy Gasp make music for fans of theatrical, darkly comical, genre‑defiant entertainment, with instrumentation and personnel that changes regularly to meet the needs and vision of each new project. At its core, The Holy Gasp is concerned with renegotiating the parameters of a “band,” and with seeking to find the intersections between music, literature, and performance art.
Their first record, The Last Generation of Love (2015), was funded by the Toronto Arts Council, and regarded as “a future cult-classic debut” by The Toronto Star; as “undoubtedly one of the best Canadian albums of the year” by Grayowl Point; and as “one of the best albums to come out of Toronto in 2015” by Toronto Music Reviews.
In 2017, The Holy Gasp was commissioned by The Toronto Outdoor Picture Show to compose an original film score to the 1925 silent comedy, The Freshman, which which was written during Composer’s Residency at The Church of St. Andrew by-the-lake on Toronto Island. The Freshman premiered as a live accompaniment to the movie on opening night of The Christie Pits Film Festival in June of 2017, and was attended by an audience of 800. It encored later that August at the Slapstick by Starlight Festival.
In 2018, The Holy Gasp released The Love Songs of Oedipus Rex, a 27-person concept album about a troubled marriage further burdened by the death of the husband’s father. The album reached #1 on the Earshot Campus Radio Charts in Windsor and Detroit, and was the subject of a CBC Short Doc by director Luke Sargent on the process of turning trauma into art. The album was described by Sacred Exile as “an immediately captivating mix of genres, anchored by a powerful vocal performance… ultimately unlike anything you have heard before.” And to quote Domionated: “From the most painful and precarious of predicaments, The Love Songs of Oedipus Rex rises as a creative masterpiece.” The album premiered live in concert at 918 Bathurst in Toronto on October 27 2018, and was funded by the Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts, FACTOR, and The SOCAN Foundation.
On March 30th, The Holy Gasp released Mmm Urkh But, a 16-minute work of musical storytelling about a man and woman who, having concluded that the difficulties in their relationship have been caused by an inability to communicate, embark upon a radical experiment in language, and commit to a life together in which three words alone are ever uttered. Mmm Urkh But was written for bass clarinet and percussion, and premiered via live stream in co-presentation with URGNT Music and Macleans Magazine.
“Mmm Urkh But tells a story both familiar and original in style and content—Beckett-esque and biblical, ironic, absurd, yet genuine and poignant. One might think there is nothing left to say on the subject of communication in romance, or perhaps the impossibility of it, yet Hackman tackles the topic in a fresh and, at times, surprisingly delightful way.”
-JACOB SCHEIER, Governor General Award-winning author of “More to Keep Us Warm” and “Letter from Brooklyn.”
Presently, The Holy Gasp is enjoying a Composer’s Residency at the Historic Kiever Synagogue in Toronto’s Kensington Market, where they are hard at work on an orchestral concept album about The Book of Job, and are preparing their performance of Grief, on July 1st via live stream.