Meet Some of the Amazing Singers Who Will be Joining us for our Fallen Concert

 

from top left: Ben Sellick, Jane Fingler, John Anderson, Kathleen Murphy

Camerata Nova, and the Manitoba choir community as a whole, are so lucky to have access to some of the best talent in the country. Ben Sellick, Jane Fingler, John Anderson, and Kathleen Murphy are just four of the 14 amazing singers who’ll be joining us this weekend (Nov 3-4) for our concert Fallen, taking place at the Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.

Fallen performers include Artistic Director / Directeur artistique, Andrew Balfour; Sopranos: Jane Fingler, Sarah Sommer, Brittany Mielnichuk, Sydney Clarke; Altos: Donnalynn Grills, Angela Neufeld, Kathleen Murphy; Tenors: Scott Reimer, Andrew Thomson, Dave Sawatzky; Basses: Alan Schroeder, Ben Sellick, John Anderson, George Bajer-Koulack; Featured Artists: Cris Derkesen, Cory Campbell; as well as the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir.

Ben Sellick grew up playing music, traveling, and watching movies. He went to the University of Manitoba, where he studied piano and film. First with Elroy Friesen, and then under Michael Zaugg, Ben began singing and writing choral music, receiving his first major compositional premiere by Pro Coro Canada in their 2017-2018 season. Ben likes the colour orange, olive oil, wool socks, lakes, film music, El Greco, and podcasts.

Jane Fingler is a Winnipeg based Soprano who has has the pleasure of singing in Camerata Nova for the past seven seasons. She also sings in other Winnipeg based choral groups Polycoro and Canzona, performing music old and new, appearing as a soloist as well as an ensemble member. Jane teaches voice lessons, tries to write music sometimes and loves to sing and perform pop/folk music that have great harmonies! She loves being a part of the Camerata Family! <3

Born and raised in Winnipeg, John Anderson has been a lifelong lover of singing. With a passion for choir, theatre and composition, John has recently graduated from the University of Manitoba Desautels Faculty of Music and is excited to now begin making music and telling stories more widely in the Winnipeg community.

Kathleen Murphy is a mezzo-soprano & pianist from Winnipeg, Manitoba.  She is currently completing her degree in undergraduate piano at the University of Manitoba with David Moroz, and pursues vocal studies with Mel Braun.  She has performed in concerts, masterclasses, & festivals as a vocalist, pianist, and choir member. Kathleen also has a passion for music theory & history, and is planning to pursue a post baccalaureate degree in vocal performance.

TICKETS

*Tickets are available from our website, at McNally Robinson Booksellers, by phone (204-918-4947), or at the door. Two- or three-concert subscriptions ($35 to $125) for Camerata Nova’s 2018-2019 season are also available. See cameratanova.com for details.

DONATE

Camerata Nova is a registered not-for-profit charitable organization. Exploring, taking risks, and developing exciting new programming, takes time, energy, and money.

Click here to find out more about donating.

Fallen: A Truth and Reconciliation Concert

Camerata Nova’s landmark concert series highlighting truth and reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Canada is returning this November with Fallen, the second of three concerts designed by artistic director and composer Andrew Balfour. As with many trilogies, you don’t need to have seen the first to appreciate the second.

Andrew Balfour leading a rehearsal with the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir

Fallen will be presented on Nov. 3 and 4. The first of the series, Taken, premiered on March 4 and 5, 2017 in Winnipeg before moving out east to be performed in the National Arts Centre’s Canada 150 Festival in June.

Taken – which featured Polaris Prize-winning artist Jeremy Dutcher, hip hop artist Eekwol from Muskoday First Nation in Saskatchewan, CBC reporter and throat singer Madeleine Allakariallak and cellist Leanne Zacharias with Camerata Nova’s chamber choir – received praise for being “innovative, inclusive and thoroughly engaging” (ARTSFILE). It dealt with the subject of Indigenous children being taken from their homes and the stripping of their culture by residential schools.

Fallen continues the conversation of truth and reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of Canada by exploring the contributions of Indigenous soldiers in the First World War, featuring a choral drama entitled Notinikew (He who takes part in war), written by Balfour. This time around, Camerata Nova will be joined by Indigenous cellist Cris Derksen, traditional drummer and singer Cory Campbell and the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir. The concert, conducted by Mel Braun, will also feature Requiem, a piece by English composer Herbert Howells on the death of his young son.

Balfour’s inspiration for Notinikew was sparked by his love of history, particularly the European wars. “While Indigenous individuals of Canada have fought in every major conflict from the War of 1812 to Afghanistan, they were rewarded for their contributions to WWI by being denied benefits and forbidden to leave their reserves,” said Balfour.

The motivations as to why Indigenous people would fight for a country that eradicated their culture fascinated Balfour. “All war is insanity”, said Balfour. “I wanted to do an anti-war piece, but also question why Indigenous people would go and fight in that war, and what would drive them to sign up and travel overseas and fight in the bloodiest conflict ever at that time.”

“Maybe they went to fight to better their cause at home; maybe they thought if they fought for Canada that our country would reward them with giving them their ceremony or language back. Maybe they had a sense of honour. Maybe they wanted adventure.”

Balfour founded Camerata Nova in 1996 to explore early music – sparked by his love for Renaissance and medieval works – but it wasn’t until years later that he began composing his own music and exploring the power of Indigenous music.

Balfour was a victim of the Sixties Scoop, taken from his Cree family at a young age and placed in the home of an Anglican priest. While he says his home was loving and supportive, it disconnected him from his people, his culture and his music. Through writing pieces for Camerata Nova and researching Indigenous cultures, Balfour rediscovered a part of his identity and learned to embrace his people’s music.

“I didn’t know anything about my language or my heritage, so it’s a process,” said Balfour. “It’s a very important way of reclaiming a lost identity.”

For Sandi Mielitz, president of Camerata Nova’s board of directors, watching Balfour grow as an artist and embrace his identity has been a rewarding experience.

“I’ve seen a guy with a huge amount of musical talent who then took it and learned how to not only evolve his music into something more and more sophisticated and abstract, but also evolve his whole identity,” said Mielitz.

While the struggles and triumphs of the Indigenous peoples of Canada can be researched through spoken and written works, Balfour and Mielitz agree that music provides another layer of connection for audiences to understand their experiences.

“When a story is told in music, it touches you in a way that dry facts just simply don’t,” said Mielitz. “All of the arts have a way of touching you and emotionally engaging you in experiencing stories.”

“The legacy of storytelling is so important, and I feel that the power of music or word or dance or visual arts are really important for people to either heal or explore their own wounds and legacies through art,” Balfour agreed. “The idea of doing these call-to-action concerts has been very important for myself as an artist and our community.”

Camerata Nova’s rehearsals are well underway, and for Balfour, the journey from looking at notes on a computer screen to hearing them sung live by the full chamber choir is an exciting one.

“It takes a lot of work, but we have an amazing organization and we have people, mostly non-Indigenous, that realize the importance of this, and that’s the country that I want to live in,” said Balfour. “Where people are healing or helping the healing or listening, because that’s really the most important thing. Particularly politicians – they need to listen.”

Fallen takes place at 7:30 pm on Nov. 3 and at 3 pm on Nov. 4 at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (corner of Nassau and Wardlaw), with pre-concert talks 45 minutes before both shows*. The third and final concert of the series, Captive – a piece on Indigenous peoples’ incarceration – will be presented in 2020.
-Graeme Houssin

TICKETS

*Tickets are available from our website, at McNally Robinson Booksellers, by phone (204-918-4947), or at the door. Two- or three-concert subscriptions ($35 to $125) for Camerata Nova’s 2018-2019 season are also available. See cameratanova.com for details.

DONATE

Camerata Nova is a registered not-for-profit charitable organization. Exploring, taking risks, and developing exciting new programming, takes time, energy, and money.

Click here to find out more about donating.

‘Fallen’ is the Second Concert in a Trilogy Dedicated to Truth and Reconciliation

Artistic Director Andrew Balfour and the Camerata Nova team continue to innovate and celebrate choral music with ‘Fallen’ (Nov 3-4, 2018), the second concert in a trilogy dedicated to truth and reconciliation.

Composer, and Camerata Nova’s Artistic Director, Andrew Balfour, puts the finishing touches on Fallen (Nov 3-4) at the Herdsman’s House in Neubergthal, Manitoba.

Fallen – November 3, 2018 at 7:30 pm and November 4, 2018 at 3:00 pm at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (Pre-concert talks at 6:45 pm on Saturday and 2:45 pm on Sunday)

Experience the poignant drama of a Manitoba Indigenous hunter/trapper who signs up to fight in World War I. Join conductor Mel Braun and composer/singer/Artistic Director Andrew Balfour with Indigenous cellist Cris Derksen, traditional drummer/singer Cory Campbell and the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir, among other guest artists. Beauty and drama that is 100 years young. This concert also features Herbert Howells’ Requiem, a masterwork on the death of his son.

Fallen is the second concert in a series dedicated to truth and reconciliation. In 2020, look for our third concert, Captive, expressing the power and sadness of Indigenous incarceration.

About Andrew Balfour
Of Cree descent, Andrew Balfour has written a body of more than 30 choral, instrumental and orchestral works, including the chamber opera Mishabooz’ Realm, Take the Indian, Empire Étrange: The Death of Louis Riel, Migiis: A Whiteshell Soundscape, Bawajigaywin, Gregorio’s Nightmare, Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Fantasia on a Poem by Rumi, Missa Brevis and Medieval Inuit. He has been commissioned by the Winnipeg, Regina and Toronto Symphony Orchestras, L’Atelier Lyrique de l’Opéra de Montréal, Ensemble Caprice of Montreal, Highlands Opera Workshop, Winnipeg Singers, Kingston Chamber Choir and Camerata Nova, among many others.  His choral works have been published by Cypress Choral Music and CNova Publishing and have been performed and/or broadcast locally, nationally and internationally.

Andrew is also the founder and Artistic Director of the innovative, 14-member vocal group Camerata Nova, now in its 23nd year of offering a concert series in Winnipeg.  With Camerata Nova, Andrew specializes in creating “concept concerts”, many with indigenous subject matter (Wa Wa Tey Wak (Northern Lights), Medieval Inuit, Chant!).  These innovative offerings explore a theme through an eclectic array of music, including new works, arrangements and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations.

Andrew has become increasingly passionate about music education and outreach, particularly on northern reserves and inner city Winnipeg schools where he has worked on behalf of the National Arts Centre, Camerata Nova, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and various Winnipeg school divisions for the past eight years.

Andrew was Curator and Composer-in-Residence of the WSO’s Indigenous Festivals in 2009 and 2010 and in 2007 received the Mayor of Winnipeg’s Making a Mark Award, sponsored by the Winnipeg Arts Council to recognize the most promising midcareer artist in the City.  In 2017, he was awarded a Gold Medal by the Senate of Canada for his contribution to Canada’s indigenous and music communities.

TICKETS

Tickets for individual concerts are available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, by phone (204-918-4547), through our website, or at the door. Subscriptions (three concerts) are $65 (adults), $55 (seniors) and $35 (under 30), with a subscriptions-for-two offering at $125, $105 and $65 respectively. This season, two-concert mini-packages are also available ($35, $30, $20, or for two, $65, $55, $35). Individual ticket prices available on our website.

DONATE

Camerata Nova is a registered not-for-profit charitable organization. Exploring, taking risks, and developing exciting new programming, takes time, energy, and money.

Click here to find out more about donating.

Celebrated Indigenous Cellist/composer, Cris Derksen, Joining us for “Fallen”

Cris Derksen is a celebrated Indigenous cellist/composer known for building layers of sound into captivating performances. Originally from Northern Alberta, Cris has a line of chiefs from North Tall Cree reserve on her father’s side and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s side. Her music braids the traditional and contemporary in multiple dimensions, weaving her traditional classical training and her Aboriginal ancestry with new school electronics, creating genre-defying music. For Fallen, Cris will be joined by traditional drummer/singer Cory Campbell and the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir, among other guest artists. Read more…

Fallen is the second concert in a series dedicated to truth and reconciliation. In 2020, look for our third concert, Captive, expressing the power and sadness of Indigenous incarceration.

TICKETS

Tickets for individual concerts are available at McNally Robinson Booksellers, by phone (204-918-4547), through our website, or at the door. Subscriptions (three concerts) are $65 (adults), $55 (seniors) and $35 (under 30), with a subscriptions-for-two offering at $125, $105 and $65 respectively. This season, two-concert mini-packages are also available ($35, $30, $20, or for two, $65, $55, $35). Individual ticket prices available on our website.

Donate

Camerata Nova is a registered not-for-profit charitable organization. Exploring, taking risks, and developing exciting new programming, takes time, energy, and money.

Click here to find out more about donating.

2018-19 Season

Fallen – November 3, 2018 at 7:30 pm and November 4, 2018 at 3:00 pm at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (Pre-concert talks at 6:45 pm on Saturday and 2:45 pm on Sunday)

Experience the poignant drama of a Manitoba Indigenous hunter/trapper who signs up to fight in World War I. Join conductor Mel Braun and composer/singer/Artistic Director Andrew Balfour with Indigenous cellist Cris Derksen, traditional drummer/singer Cory Campbell and the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir, among other guest artists. Beauty and drama that is 100 years young. This concert also features Herbert Howells’ Requiem, a masterwork on the death of his son.

Fallen is the second concert in a series dedicated to truth and reconciliation. In 2020, look for our third concert, Captive, expressing the power and sadness of Indigenous incarceration.

The Prairie Songbook 
March 9, 2019 at 7:00 pm and 10:00 pm and March 10, 2019 at 3:00 pm at the Park Theatre

Every few years, we kick back to just have fun with friends and fans. For this special Park Theatre event, Camerata Nova will present great folk and pop standards as well as recent tunes by cool, local artists. From the Wailin’ Jennys to The Guess Who, from Joni Mitchell to Royal Canoe, from KD Lang to JP Hoe, we’ll celebrate our “wheatfield soul” in all its diversity.

Led by Mel Braun and Vic Pankratz and featuring a 4-piece house band of talented musicians, Camerata Nova will turn the Park Theatre into your favourite coffee house. Come join us and blow away your winter blues!

Death by Chocolate: The Life and Death of Henry Purcell
May 4, 2019 at 7:30 pm and May 5, 2019 at 3:00 pm at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (Pre-concert talks at 6:45 pm on Saturday and 2:15 pm on Sunday)

In this concert curated and conducted by John Wiens, Camerata Nova seeks to showcase choral works by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) and to explore the life of this composer, arguably the greatest of the English Baroque period. Join us to find out how cocoa can kill…

Death by Chocolate offers top quality performers and powerful repertoire – a rare musical treat. Four Winnipeg vocal soloists: Dayna Lamothe, soprano, Jane Fingler, soprano, James Magnus-Johnson, tenor, and Jereme Wall, bass will be joined by early music instrumentalists Claudine St-Arnauld, violin, Jeremy Buzasch, violin, Greg Hay, viola, Yuri Hooker, cello, Andrew Goodlett, bass, and Michael McKay, organ continuo. To add a star attraction and flair to the concert, we are also bringing in the exciting young Canadian countertenor, Daniel Cabena, who specializes in early and contemporary performance.  The countertenor voice has a caché and curiosity that is sure to send many a heart afflutter.  Repertoire will include: Rondeau from Abdelazar; O Sing unto the Lord; My Heart Is Inditing; Hear My Prayer, O Lord; Te Deum and Jubilate in D; plus Three Funeral Sentences.

Tickets

Tickets for individual concerts are available through our website, by phone (204-918-4547), or at the door. Two-concert mini-packages are also available ($35, $30, $20, or for two, $65, $55, $35). Individual ticket prices available on our website.

Donate

Camerata Nova is a registered not-for-profit charitable organization. Exploring, taking risks, and developing exciting new programming, takes time, energy, and money.

Click here to find out more about donating.

 

Program Notes for Red River Song

The following text will be published in the program for Red River Song, presented on April 28th and 29th:

Red River Song is a celebration of Manitoba’s Métis heritage – from culture to carts. From the first decade of the 19th century through to the 1870s, the Métis people developed a way of life perfectly suited to the prairies, one that incorporated influences from all sides of their Indigenous, French Canadian and Scottish heritage. A proud people, the Métis cut a colourful swath in prairie society with their distinctive jackets and sashes, with their songs and dances, with their blue and white flag featuring the infinity symbol.

Our concert begins with an Invocation to the Four Directions, combining the opening words of the Latin Requiem mass with Cree and English texts that describe the Four Directions, the Four Seasons. It is a reflective opening, respectfully combining the Indigenous/European influences that shaped Métis culture. Mel Braun wrote it for Winnipeg’s 2017 concert in the Mysterious Barricades project, where performances were held across the country for World Suicide Prevention Day. Much of the music of the Métis is bright and full of fun, but there is a much darker side to this history. Invocation gives us a calm space to contemplate this.

From solemnity, the concert moves to rhythm and history with the songs of Métis Bard Pierre Falcon, a.k.a. Pierriche or Pierre the Rhymer. Born in Somerset House (or Elbow Fort, near Swan River, Manitoba) in 1793 to a Cree mother and French Canadian fur trader from the North West Company, Falcon was also a fur trader and, later, a farmer near present-day St. François-Xavier. He was famous as the bard of the Métis, creating poems and tunes to tell of the great exploits of his people in their struggle to be an independent nation under Louis Riel. In 1816, at age 23, he wrote La Chanson de la Grenouillère or The Battle of Seven Oaks which, 200 years later, remains a standard of Métis music.

The Buffalo Hunt is the second Falcon song in this concert, describing an activity at the very heart of the Métis culture. From the buffalo hunt came pemmican, which the Métis fashioned from dried, pounded buffalo meat, berries and grease. Pemmican was big business for the Métis. A 19th-century version of today’s Power Bar, it was much in demand by the voyageurs as they paddled umpteen hours a day in search of furs.

This set of historical Métis songs also includes the beautiful La Métisse with words by Louis Riel to a tune by priest Georges Dugas, who worked in Manitoba from 1866 to 1888. The words express the pride of a young Métis woman at the time of the Métis Provisional Government in 1869-70 – “If ever I am loved, I will choose for my faithful lover one of the soldiers from the little army commanded by our proud adjutant.”

A word about the arranger, Manitoban Chester Duncan: pianist, composer, author, CBC critic/producer/broadcaster and Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Manitoba, Duncan wrote more than 150 art songs. In the 1990s, he was commissioned to arrange all the songs from the compilation Songs of Old Manitoba, published in 1960 by Margaret Arnett MacLeod. They were premièred at the Summer Festival of Music on the Red. Mel Braun is delighted to bring three of them back to life for Red River Song.

Fiddlin’ and Jiggin’ – Camerata Nova is very pleased to present 15-year-old champion Métis fiddler Alexandre Tétrault with piano accompanist Yvette Audette. A descendant of Louis Riel, Tétrault not only plays up a storm but also writes his own fiddle tunes, which have become popular on the fiddle circuit. He is playing one of his own compositions today, as well as a tune by Andy de Jarlis (b. Desjarlais, 1914-1975), the famous Métis fiddler from Woodridge, Manitoba. From a family of Métis fiddlers, Andy was a descendant of Pierre Falcon and is credited with more than 200 jigs, reels, polkas and waltzes, some of which have become standards in North America.

Alexandre will also play another well-known tune, Reel de Sainte-Anne, to accompany jiggers Julien Beaudette-Loiselle and Marcus Merasty. Julien, a Métis from St. Boniface, has been dancing with the Ensemble folklorique de la Rivière-Rouge for seven years. The Ensemble specializes in traditional and not-so-traditional French-Canadian jigs and dances. Hailing from Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan, Marcus is of Cree descent. In addition to traditional Métis jigging, Marcus is pursuing a career in contemporary dance. He is currently in the Professional Program of The School of Contemporary Dancers. Marcus and Julien are also performing an “a cappella dance” which they created for this concert with choreographer Myriam Leclercq and which combines Métis and French Canadian steps.

About Run Freddy Run!, Eliot Britton writes that it is “the second instalment in a set of pieces that looks at Manitoba’s heirloom bison culture. The text is constructed from bison-themed varia copied down during my post Ph.D. gap year in Winnipeg.

One can’t get far in Manitoba without encountering a bison-branded object, organization, business or activity. For example, I attended Nature Manitoba’s The Natural and Unnatural History of Bison in Manitoba lecture by Dr. Randy Mooi, Curator of Zoology at The Manitoba Museum – business as usual for a Tuesday evening in Manitoba. A group of nature enthusiasts and I crowded into Room 31 at Kelvin High School (I think I even paid full price as a non-member!). The lecture ran late. As expected, bison are awesome. As it turns out, bison are a handful and every so often the herd produces a particularly rebellious soul. Nothing has changed.

I heard about Freddy on the news. A “brazen bison” from Lorette, Manitoba who “just won’t stay home on the range.” I laughed out loud and immediately remembered Dr. Mooi’s 2016 lecturette on the last buffalo hunt and the truant, rebel bison. The juxtaposition of an obscure New York Times article from 1911 and the hilariously obscure 2018 Freddy story was too much to pass up. I then started to think about distant but related processes and uncommon intersections of historical and contemporary materials. That’s how I got to making a piece that integrates Renaissance polyphony with pop chord progressions, contemporary speech synthesis and sound design. I use “integrate” fairly loosely in this context. Sometimes it’s like hitting a brick wall, which is part of the fun of such a remote juxtaposition.

So, there you have it. Run Freddy Run! is a uniquely Manitoban mash-up that combines old and new, something borrowed and something… brown. And hopefully by the time you are reading this, I have secured an authentic Run Freddy Run! hoodie.”

Ode to the Red River Cart – Red River carts were the soundscape of the prairies. Wood-on-wood construction, no axle grease, well, you get the picture. More accurately, you hear the picture, with its endless moans, squeaks and squeals… We won’t speculate on why Mel Braun is inspired by moans, squeaks and squeals but he really went to town on this Ode to the Red River Cart!

The piece is constructed incorporating six Métis songs/reels, each found in Métis Songs: Visiting Was the Métis Way, compiled by ethnomusicologist Dr. Lynn Whidden, after years of searching out, recording and transcribing the music of Métis singers and fiddlers across the prairies. Published by the Saskatchewan Music Educators Association, the book in its entirety can be found as part of the Virtual Museum of Métis History and Culture created by the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research (www.metismuseum.ca). Dr. Whidden has created a wonderful gift to current and future generations of people interested in Métis music. As part of this Red River Song concert project, the score of Ode to the Red River Cart and individual choral scores of these Métis tunes arranged by Mel Braun will be made available for schools and community choirs via CNova Publishing on our website (www.cameratanova.com).

Before, after and even during these Métis tunes, Mel has written a colourful, detailed recitative about the Red River cart and its role and importance in Métis culture. The story is not just about the romance. It ends with the coming of the railway and the disappearance of not only the cart, but the Métis way of life. This “magnum opus” is fun, sad, wild and instructive! Be prepared to join in to the chorus at the end… Can you sound like a Red River cart??

Party d’cuisine! (Kitchen Party) – Just as would have happened in the kitchen of a Métis homestead, redolent with smoke, whiskey, warmth, fiddles, tapping spoons, toes and heels, Red River Song ends with a crazy “mash-up” of fiddles and dancers, plus singers doing “turlutte” or French Canadian scat. Bring out your spoons and get ready to join in!

The party starts quietly – as most parties do – with a cappella singing of À la claire fontaine. You will recognize the words, but perhaps not the tune – this beautiful melody was created by the Quebec group Barde, then arranged by the Saskatchewan group Folle Avoine. The party then picks up the pace with La Belle Catherine by Louis “Pitou” Boudreault (1905-1988), fiddler and storyteller from Chicoutimi, Québec. The next song, La disputeuse, is a famous Acadian reel also known under many other names, including Growling Old Man and Cackling Old Woman, The Disputant, and Growling and Grumbling! It will be followed by Fisher’s Hornpipe, another tune of many names and one of the most popular, widespread and frequently published fiddle tunes in the world.

Next up is Red River Jig or “oayache mannin,” as it is known in Michif. This is the unofficial Métis anthem, which was very popular in the mid 1800s when it was known from Alaska to James Bay. The dance is a combination of Plains First Nations footwork with Scottish, Irish and French-Canadian dance forms. The basic jig step is danced in most Métis communities, however, dancers often add their own “fancy” steps in parts of the tune. Even more specific, some dancers add certain variations which identify their home community. The origin of the Jig is unknown. One theory is that the Scots were on one side of the river (Red, Assiniboine or Seine – take your pick…) playing the bagpipes one night while some French Canadians and Métis were kicking back on their homestead porch on the other. A Métis fiddler decided to imitate the bagpipes. He started with a slow, sad, whining tune and then stepped it up with a fast, rollicking beat – everyone wanted to dance and the Red River Jig was born…

It is fitting to end the party with Whiskey Before Breakfast, another melodious composition by Andy de Jarlis, the famous Métis fiddler.

From Pierre Falcon to his descendent Andy de Jarlis, our concert comes full circle. Louis Riel said that the Métis people would sleep for a hundred years before their artists and visionaries led them back to nationhood. How right he was. The current resurgence of Métis culture and nationhood is a joy to behold. Long live the Métis Nation, long live the Red River cart!

Camerata Nova would like to thank Mel Braun for his wonderful curation, compositions, arrangements and conducting – but, most of all, for his passion for the story of the Métis and the history of Manitoba. We would also like to thank Myriam Leclercq, dance choreographer, and Karine Beaudette, Camerata Nova singer and long-time volunteer, for bringing together the fiddlers, dancers and choreographer to create the fiddling sequences.

Acknowledgements are also due to Dr. Lynn Whidden for providing authentic versions of Métis music and historian Fred J. Shore of the Native Studies Department at the University of Manitoba for his book, Threads in the Sash: The Story of the Métis from which we have liberally borrowed facts and stories.

Red River Song

You could hear them coming from miles away. Those Red River Carts, using no axle grease,were the soundscape of the prairies, the pride of the Metis traders. Made entirely of wood, lashed together with rawhide, able to carry vast loads and negotiate anything the Red River Valley topography could throw at them, the Red River Carts were the perfect eco-vehicle for the 19th C. prairie. They could transport trade goods, Buffalo meat, household furniture, tools, weapons, alcohol, and of course, the ever-present Metis fiddles. In hunt or battle, they could also provide shelter, a circle of protection for hunters and their families. In summer, their tall wheels cruised through Manitoba gumbo. In Spring, they could float across the river with their wheels lashed beneath. In winter, placed atop runners, they traversed the snow. Repairs were as easy as the next grove of trees. Wood-on- wood construction, no axle grease, well, you get the picture. More accurately, you hear the picture, with its endless, moans, squeaks, and squeals…

Red River Song brings some of the many songs and stories connected to the 19 th C. rise of the Metis nation. From the first decade of the 19 th C to through to the 1870’s, they developed a culture perfectly suited to the prairies, one that incorporated influences from all sides of Indigenous, French Canadian, and English Settlers culture. The Red River Cart provided the means for their entrepreneurial endeavours, carrying trade goods south to St. Paul, Minnesota or west to Fort Edmonton. It was also instrumental in the Buffalo Hunt, the very heart of the Metis culture. From the Buffalo Hunt came the pemmican, which the Metis fashioned from dried powdered buffalo meat, berries, and grease. A 19th C. version of today’s Power Bar, pemmican was much in demand by the voyageur as they paddled umpteen hours a day in search of furs. Pemmican was big business for the Metis. A proud people, the Metis cut a colourful swath in prairie society with their distinctive jackets, chapeaux and sashes, with their
songs and dances, with their Blue and white flag featuring the infinity symbol.

Our concert begins with an Invocation to the Four Directions, combining the opening words of the Requiem Service with Cree and English text that describes the Four Directions, the Four Seasons. From there we move to the songs of Metis Bard Pierre Falcon, who recorded the great exploits of the Metis in their struggle to be an Independant Nation under Louis Riel’s leadership. Fiddling and dancing features throughout the concert, with two fiddlers, acclaimed young Manitoba fiddler Alexandre Tetrault and WSO regular Claudine St. Arnauld joined by two dancers. They provide the heart of the Metis musical experience. A new commission by Manitoban Eliot Britton, for choir, fiddle, and electronics, traces the true adventures of Freddy, a rogue bison on the loose in the Lorette area of the province. And an Ode to the Red River Cart combines arrangements of Metis folk-songs with the story of the Red River Cart. Everything closes with a kitchen party that combines fiddle tunes and dancing with “turlutte” a Metis form of scatting undertaken by the choir. Be prepared to play your spoons during the kitchen party and to make the sounds of the Red River Cart during the performance of the Ode.

This celebration of Metis culture must also acknowledge the long dark period that came for the Metis in the 1870’s once Prime Minister John A. MacDonald and his railway took over their prairie and dis-abused them of their lands, their culture, and the need for the Red River Cart. Louis Riel himself said that the Metis people would sleep for a hundred years before their artists and visionaries led them back to nationhood. How right he was. The current resurgence of Metis culture and nationhood is a joy to behold and we celebrate with you. Long live the Metis Nation, long live the Red River Cart!

– Mel Braun

Run, Freddy, Run!

Run, Freddy, Run! is second installment in a set of pieces that looks at Manitoba’s heirloom bison culture. The text is constructed form bison themed varia copied down during my post PhD gap year in Winnipeg. One can’t get far in MB without encountering a bison branded object, organization, business or activity. For example, I attended Nature Manitoba’s The Natural And Unnatural History Of Bison In Mb lecture by Dr. Dr. Randy Mooi, Curator of Zoology at The Manitoba Museum. Business as usual for a Tuesday evening in Manitoba.

Freddy the Bison

Myself and a group of nature enthusiasts crowded into room 31 at Kelvin High School (I think I even paid full price as a non member!). The lecture ran late. As expected, bison are awesome. As it turns out, bison are a handful and every so often the herd produces a particularly rebellious soul. Nothing has changed.

I heard about Freddy on the news. A “brazen bison” from Lorette Manitoba who “just won’t stay home on the range”. I laughed out loud and immediately remembered Dr. Mooi’s 2016 lecturette on the last buffalo hunt and the truant, rebel bison. The juxtaposition of an obscure New York Times article from 1911 and the hilariously obscure 2018 Freddy story was too much to pass up. I then started to think about distant but related processes and uncommon intersections of historical and contemporary materials. That’s how I got to making a piece that integrates renaissance polyphony with pop chord progressions contemporary speech synthesis and sound design. I use “integrate” fairly loosely in this context. Sometimes it’s like hitting a brick wall, which is part of the fun of such a remote juxtaposition.

So there you have it. Run Freddy Run! Is a uniquely Manitoban mashup that combines old and new, something borrowed and something… brown.  And hopefully by the time you are reading this I have secured an authentic Run Freddy Run hoodi

Run Freddy Run! Text:

Brazen bison won’t stay home on the range
Run! Home! Range! Run!
He looks like a bison. I don’t want to be insensitive but they all look the same… you know?

The last big buffalo hunt in the history of the world
Sold to the Canadian government, five hundred head

Freddy’s out. He is just outside his yard on river road
I think people need to remember that Freddy is not a pet and is large and somewhat dangerous.

  • A daily bison report began popping up on a facebook groupSold to the Canadi
  • an Government five hundred head of buffalo The taxidermy shop
  • on main street that is the backdrop for the bison skullsle bison semble s’échapper à travers
  • une clôture électrique qui ne fonctionne pas correctement

Avant tout, les gens doivent se rappeler que Freddy n’est pas un animal domestique; c’est un animal imposant
C’est une rebelle depuis le début, that bull.

Manitoba
Run! Run! Run!

Brazen bison, won’t stay home on the range in Lorette
Manitoba Outlaw

The last big buffalo hunt
The official taxidermist of the Manitoba Government

Just outside my office there is a big, hairy outlaw that can stare anybody down

Run!

 

Program Notes for A Tale of Two Cities

The following text will be published in the program for A Tale of Two Cities, presented on February 24 and 25, 2018.

Returning to Winnipeg after a 20-year absence has been, in many ways, a gratifying experience. I’ve been offered wonderful artistic opportunities that have given me fresh perspective and challenged me to continue growing and expanding. Along the way I noticed certain similarities between another well-travelled family – the Gabrielis, whose travels to study with Orlande de Lassus are well documented. I began thinking about a concert that was focused on their music, and the passage of time… and this program was born. What we have here is a slightly different Tale of Two Cities – not French written by an Englishman, but Italian conceived in Winnipeg!

St. Mark’s Basilica, in Venice, Italy.

This concert explores several composers and the musical moment they helped define, given form by the rise and the fall of the cori spezzati. This is another term for music performed by multiple choirs, often in alternation, which later became Venetian polychoral style. This musical trend was an important one, but the lessons surrounding it are of equal interest to me. In Venice, and especially at St. Mark’s Basilica, this style of music was developed in a sort of institutional way, dependant on certain architecture, the availability of certain instruments and certain musicians, and especially the presence of certain composers. When I say “institutional way,” I mean this: that the leadership there showed great foresight to hire composers at the forefront of the profession – Adriano Willaert, Cipriano da Rore, Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and later Claudio Monteverdi. That’s some exceptional decision-making, choosing la crème de la crème. And it was those creative voices who, each in their own turn, put an exceptionally beautiful building – St. Mark’s Basilica – at the head of a musical movement.

It goes without saying that institutions get ahead by choosing personalities that can be at the front of a trend, or even better, can define a trend. That creative personality puts a new vision into practice, and that vision ultimately defines the success of an institution and its continued relevance. Venice – and St. Mark’s in particular – were at the forefront of musical trends for nearly a century, but they risked falling behind the next major movement if they held on to the previous one for too long.

And it may also be effectively argued that there is value in being on the wrong side of a trend. Much wonderful music for cori spezzati was written after this story line ends in 1615, as the style influenced Roman, German and French compositional techniques, though seconda prattica changed the flavour of the writing significantly, offering a different perspective on the style.

And so, Venice circa 1580 and Venice circa 1615 are really two different cities at the fundamental, creative level. One is at the height of the Renaissance – the productive flowering of a massive renaissance compositional style. The other, at the height of its musical power just before the fall, with a new compositional style already emerged and waiting in the wings for the end of this story.

The story of early Venice is focused on the senior Gabrieli – Andrea, uncle to Giovanni and the creative mind responsible for the early development of the cori spezzati style of composition. He was a great organ virtuoso, expected to compose while his counterpart took care of the day-to-day administration of a 40-member group of singers and instrumentalists. Andrea had a unique creative and analytical mind. In his later years, having studied with Willaert and Lassus, he conceived a style that would allow many choirs to participate without ruining musical clarity with too much counterpoint. Music on this large scale, for up to 16 voices, was difficult to create on the spur of the moment. Special music for special occasions were created well in advance and then unveiled at an appropriate time. We are not sure, for example, when the Gloria on tonight’s program was written. We only know that its première was given during an important visit by Japanese diplomats.

Andrea Gabrieli, c. 1533–1585.

Andrea’s compositions show us how impressive a wall of sound can be. The approach is often subtle, as with the beginning of the Gloria or the Kyrie, entering quietly but building to an impressive and dominating sound involving chords that can vibrate the whole body. These pieces, much like English polyphony from around 1490 to 1540, were built to impress, overwhelm and even intimidate. They affirmed Venice’s place in the world. Andrea was an adept composer who had great emotional range, as the concluding Maria stabat ad monumentum (and his many madrigals) proves.

Andrea was among the students of the legendary Adriano Willaert. Adriano and his friend Jachet de Mantua create a prologue to our tale. Willaert, the Flemish master of composition, a pedagogue, theoretician and independent thinker, remained largely under private employ during his career in Venice. He held a position at St. Mark’s, teaching the who’s who of the next generation of composers to inhabit St. Mark’s – especially Cipriano da Rore (a great influence on Monteverdi) and Andrea. His early attempts with cori spezzati may seem somewhat half-hearted, but his is a completely different style of composition which uses more intricate polyphonic writing in sparse 8-part moments than Andrea uses later on.

Giovanni Gabrieli and Giovanni Antonio Rigatti end the tale. Rigatti, who studied at St. Mark’s as a boy, was witness to the arrival of the seconda prattica which Monteverdi championed. His solo piece, O dulcissima virgo, is intensely instrumental in style, showing how far vocal practice had come in just one generation. You can detect these changes in Giovanni’s works too – the ending of Salvator noster, the rhythmic intensity in Omnes gentes, and the virtuosic cantata In ecclesiis all point in their own way to the arrival of a new style of rhythmic vitality, but with large forces still being the fashion, it is a bit easier to disguise just how much rhythm and embellishment informed music at that time.

Giovanni Gabrieli, c. 1554–1612.

Giovanni took what his uncle had created and developed it, adding more and more elements and, in the case of In ecclesiis, starting a new trend that favored solo voices. His is a more complex style of counterpoint and heightened, intensive rhythmic structures. It is much like a master painter’s studio from that time. Someone provided the frame of the painting, the broad strokes if you will, and everyone in the studio was responsible for filling in one section or another as their specialities suited. Andrea, the framer, and Giovanni, the specialist.

Not to be overlooked, Andrea and Giovanni wrote at different moments in history and for different styles, but equally importantly, for different personnel. Appointments to the choir of St. Mark’s, or to a leadership position, were for life as long as posts were not neglected. Andrea was writing for a much older choir than Giovanni was. Not only was the style of music changing to a more rhythmic presentation during Giovanni’s day, but he had the energy of personnel renewal on his side. He could confidently write for his choir in a way that Andrea perhaps felt uncomfortable doing. I’ve wondered aloud from time to time whether Andrea gave more license to his performers to add embellishment to the music whereas Giovanni made those embellishments clear, though this hypothesis may or may not bear fruit. Hopefully a musicologist will one day consider this.

A concert, especially one using historical music, is often a window into a way of thinking, of weighing circumstances, or celebrating that which is exceptional enough to last hundreds of years. It offers us a chance for reflection. As I settled back into Winnipeg, noting changes and similarities, my thoughts were dragged to the question of what change is, and what drives development. History teaches us again and again that it is the truly creative among us who define our moment in history, no matter when that moment comes.

John Wiens, February 2018

Snow Angel: the beauty and strength of children

The following text will be published in the program for Snow Angel, presented on November 25 and 26, 2017.

You never know what you’re going to get…

In 22 years, Camerata Nova has never done a concert celebrating, and designed for, youth. Plus, although Snow Angel certainly has a Camerata Nova Christmas flavour, we have never designed a concert with a fair quotient of lighter, “pop-style” music. In Snow Angel, Vic Pankratz has dared to do both things. We are proud to have 15-year-old, award-winning cellist Juliana Moroz and the Sistema Winnipeg Choirs from Elwick and King Edward Schools joining us. We are also happy to occasionally veer off our normal path to offer accessible, quality contemporary music that kids can relate to and all of us can relax and enjoy.

To give fans of Camerata Nova’s more traditional music a segue into this new world, the concert starts in a more characteristic way with the first of three settings of O Magnum Mysterium (O Great Mystery) being performed, beginning with Tomas Luis de Victoria. O Magnum Mysterium is one of the most beautiful and well-known of ancient Catholic prayers, reserved for Mass on Christmas morning. Over the centuries, it has been set to music by dozens of composers. The exquisite Victoria setting is perhaps the gold standard of them all. A late Renaissance Spanish composer, singer, organist and priest, Victoria was known for the mysticism and emotion in his writing. It shines forth in this delicate, elegant work.

Ave Maris Stella (Hail, Star of the Sea) is another popular prayer or plainsong hymn to Mary, sung at evening Mass as far back as the eighth century. While the words are age-old, the composer, Don Macdonald, is an eclectic jazz musician and film composer from British Columbia. The harmonies in his Ave Maris Stella are modern but evocative of the Renaissance with snippets of polyphonic texture throughout.

To tip our hat to Canada’s 150th birthday, Vic Pankratz has found music from a range of Canadian composers and arrangers. In fact, of the ten composers on the program, eight are Canadian. Québec organist, folklorist, teacher, historian, writer and administrator Ernest Gagnon is a towering figure in the history of Québec music. He was a virtuoso organist at the Notre-Dame Basilica-Cathedral (Québec City), author of several books describing the musical history of early Québec (including Indigenous music) and compiler/editor of Chansons populaires du Canada – the bible of early Québec folksongs. Camerata Nova is performing three of his arrangements from his Cantiques populaires pour la fête de Noël (Popular Carols for the Christmas Season) published in 1909. They should evoke lots of holiday memories for our Francophone audience members!

It’s a tradition at Camerata Nova holiday concerts to hear new, made-in-Manitoba arrangements of Christmas music. This year, we approached it slightly differently, inviting Mel Braun and Andrew Balfour to write their own music to O Magnum Mysterium. No surprise, they each approached it entirely differently. In Mel’s inimitable, quirky style, he looks at the birth of Jesus from the point of view of the animals. Listen for the sounds of cows, goats, sheep, birds and even cats. Braun has pulled off an amazing mélange of the funny and the respectful and serious – who are we to say that humans were the only ones to be awed by the birth of Christ?

Our third O Magnum Mysterium is by Andrew Balfour. “I have always wanted to set this text”, says Balfour. “I love the idea of the ‘great mystery’ and the contrast of power and fragility in the babe.” Andrew’s motet pays homage to the glorious Renaissance choral versions of the prayer. There is a subtle drive to the whole piece, with an underlying drone and fragmented text. “You could say that the sopranos are the angels and the other three parts are the shepherds and those saying the prayer. Rather than ending with loud praises and glory, I chose to finish with soft whispers dissolving in the ether – it’s the mystery, the tenderness – don’t wake the baby….”

Originally American, Miles Ramsay spent years, in his own words, “criss-crossing the United States as the lead singer and drummer in a lounge band – you know, the kind we make fun of today. At the time, it all seemed pretty cool, singing in the same Vegas lounges that were home to the likes of Mel Torme and Don Rickles.” Ultimately it got stale and he settled in Vancouver.  In addition to many creative choral arrangements, Miles’ claims to fame are that he is a serious, professional Vancouver choral singer and the composer of the Great Root Bear theme for A&W (which has been played by every high school tuba player since 1973 – check it out on You Tube)!  Ramsay writes one carol arrangement each year. His versions of What Child is This? and Deck the Halls are unusual, out of the traditional context with jazz chords and meter changes – challenging but fresh and fun to sing.

Many people in our city who are interested in music know about Sistema Winnipeg, a partnership between the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Seven Oaks and Winnipeg One School Divisions. It delivers musical training to children after school for three hours a day, five days a week, at no cost to their families. In their own words, “Sistema Winnipeg encourages children to reach their full potential and inspires greater social change within the community.”

Started in 2011, there are now 160 kids in grades 1-8 at two centres: Elwick and King Edward Schools. Approximately 49% of Sistema students are newcomers to Canada, and 36% come from an Indigenous background. While all students play an orchestral instrument, each school also has a choir. The Spaces in Between Us is a work about making connections and building bridges. Vic and our singers are looking forward to joining the Sistema kids during their rehearsals to workshop the piece. As he says, “It’s both fun and an honour for Camerata Nova and for Sistema to make music together.”

Camerata Nova, November 2017 – photo: Karine Beaudette

Snow Angel by Canadian Sarah Quartel is the central work of this concert. Scored for choir, solo cello, djembe and piano, it is in five movements. In the composer’s words, “Snow Angel asks you to see the tremendous potential present in our children. It celebrates love, beauty and the strength that a child’s voice can bring to our troubled world.” Most of the piece has an ethereal, mystical feel – fitting for a work peopled with a choir of angels. Movement 4, Sweet Child, however, morphs into an emphatic rap/anthem with a distinctly African feel and vibrant part for the djembe. Throughout, the musical language is emotive and pictorial, allowing performers to play an active role in the storytelling. Particularly popular with young people, Snow Angel has caught on in the choral world and is now being performed around the world.

Quartel also weaves a haunting, poignant cello line throughout the piece. We are very pleased to have Juliana Moroz performing today. At 15, she has already established her talent and credentials, winning the Aikins Memorial Trophy for top instrumentalist at the Winnipeg Music Festival last March – an outstanding feat for someone of her age. Youth from all over the city are producing marvelous music!

Shifting gears, Andrew has had fun putting together his Polar Suite. Tongue in cheek, it expresses his bemusement at the thought of Santa’s Village at the North Pole side by side with our Inuit communities. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Up on the Rooftop (Igloo?) and Santa Claus is Coming to Town are choral grist for the mill as Balfour creates a polar “medley,” replete with northern vocal soundscapes, while Inuit narrator Fred Ford recites the words to these popular songs in Inuktitut. We would like to thank Mary Nirlungayuk, Vice-President of the Manitoba Inuit Association, for her translations.

Throughout this concert, Vic Pankratz has woven in themes of connection, caring and coming together – In diversity and despite adversity. These seem fitting sentiments in this disjointed time. To reinforce our sense of community, the concert ends with Camerata Nova and Sistema singing Hope for Resolution by Sean Ivory and Paul Caldwell. This well-known piece juxtaposes a European chant melody, Of Our Father’s Love Begotten, with a Zulu anti-apartheid song called Thula sizwe (Nation, Do Not Cry). The arrangement reflects respect for divergent styles and points us towards our innate potential for peaceful co-existence.

Thanks, Vic, for encouraging us to sit back, celebrate our young people andenter into the holiday season in a spirit of love and community!