Camerata Nova’s 2013-2014 Season

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something red…?

President of the Board, Sandi Mielitz, gives her own spin on the upcoming season.


Camerata Nova has two mottoes: “a group without fear” and “you never know what you’re going to get…” They both apply, in spades, to our 2013-2014 season! Following is an inside look into the process and the concerts for this year.

Preparing for the season…

Part of our MO is that we spend lots of time planning our programming for each season. We are lucky to have this talented and serious-but-twisted core of musicians – Andrew Balfour, Ross Brownlee, Mike McKay and Mel Braun – who have more programming ideas than we know what to do with. Everyone gets together with Ange Neufeld, Chair of the Music Committee, and submits their ideas. The Committee starts by nailing in key concert themes, core repertoire, commissions, venues and guest artists. Once this is done, one or two curators are assigned to each concert. The curator(s) are responsible for shaping and developing these initial ideas, finding all the repertoire and finalizing the program.

Lest you think this is an entirely serious process, take a look at the picture below taken at a recent programming think tank in the country… Also included is the program created later that evening… If you are intrigued, join us for the 2020-21 season!

The Music Committee hard at work...

The Music Committee hard at work…

A Season for Sousa: Music of John Phillip Sousa and contemporaries
• Date: May 2020-2021
• Concept: A celebration of the marches of Sousa, arranged for mostly a cappella choir with libretto by Dr. Seuss. Vocalizations to be coached by WSO wind players. The group will sing in marching band routines and dress in hats with plumes.
• Commissions: Eric Whitacre, Andrew and Mike M.
• Venue: Investors Field
• Repertoire:
Stars and Stripes Forever in style of Debussy – McKay
March of the Belgian Paratroopers
Liberty Bell à la Schoenberg – Balfour
Semper Fidelis in the style of Schütz
Standard of St. George

THE 2013-14 LINE-UP

Noël of the North
Saturday, November 30 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, December 1 at 3:00 pm
Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (corner of Nassau and Wardlaw)
FREE!! Please bring some food for Winnipeg Harvest

Ross Brownlee and Mike McKay, the masters who brought us Christmas in Early America last year, have designed another stunner. This one has kind of morphed with time. We started out narrowly thinking of a largely Baltic and Canadian program, but new opportunities came our way…

First, through Winnipeg flautist Haley Rempel, we came across Grace Cloutier, a harpist from New York, who has done some great arrangements of Christmas music for harp and choir. We are bringing Grace in to play with us and Haley will join us for a couple of numbers, too! Second, we have been talking to the fabulous Rose Ensemble who set the gold standard for early music performance in Minneapolis. Thanks to them, we have discovered some strong Slavic Christmas pieces including a Zielinski that will knock your socks off!

The potpourri continues… some R. Murray Schaefer, three new arrangements of The Little Drummer Boy by Sid Robinovitch, Andrew Balfour and Mike McKay and a piece for Spoon Choir – see below. Eclecticism reigns but the end result will be fun, surprising and always beautiful…

Become a member of the Camerata Nova Spoon Choir! Through ethnomusicologist Lynn Whidden in Brandon, Andrew was given access to a raft of early Métis music. He has arranged one of the fiddling tunes for choir and we are inviting members of the Camerata Nova audience to join in the performance by playing the spoons. Sets of spoons will be available for sale at a low price at the door (or you can bring your own). There will be a short performance training session at Intermission.

NEW CD!!! Last year’s Christmas concert was recorded and broadcast by CBC Radio 2. Since then, lots of people have suggested that we issue it as a CD. We listened to them! In late October, we will be releasing our first Camerata Nova Live CD called Christmas in Early America. It’s a worthy successor to Nova Noël and will make a great Christmas present for Camerata Nova fans!

Les Voix humaines: Perchance to Dreame
Tuesday, February 4 at 8:00 pm
Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
Adults and seniors $25, students $12

Camerata Nova is playing the role of impresario, bringing one of the top early music groups in Canada for their first concert in Winnipeg. Les Voix humaines features two viola da gamba (early cello) players (Susie Knapper and Margaret Little) and a lutenist (Sylvain Bergeron). Founded in 1985, this group have toured the world, played with the finest musicians of their genre and produced more than 40 recordings. Their special guest is tenor Charles Daniels.

(An aside here… I was in London this past May attending an early music festival. The best concert I attended was at Westminster Abbey with the Cathedral Men and Boys’ Choir, the St. James Baroque Orchestra and 7 soloists singing an entire program of Purcell. The individual performer who blew everyone away and got rave reviews in the paper was the very same Charles Daniels. Getting him here is a coup!!)

This will be the first time that we have sponsored another group to come to Winnipeg. If we can attract a large enough audience to make this work, we’re willing to do it on an ongoing basis.

Where’s Gesualdo?
Saturday, March 8 at 8:00 pm and Sunday, March 9 at 3:00 pm
Crescent Fort Rouge United Church
Adults $28, Seniors $23, Students $12

Andrew Balfour is the devilish designer of this program. Our group has always loved the music of Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, nobleman, murderer and genius maverick composer. His strange, chromatic harmonies also attracted attention from the rebel composers of the twentieth century, such as Berg, Stravinsky and Schoenberg. Speaking of rebels, Andrew and Mike McKay are also writing short works for this concert. The music will be beautiful but darkness and drama will be in the air.

We are honoured that Christopher Jackson, the top early music choral conductor in Canada, will be coming for a week to coach, rehearse and conduct these concerts. Join us for one of our pre-concert talks with Chris and Andrew!

FILM FLASH!!! Director Werner Herzog made an amazing movie about the life of Gesualdo called Death in Five Voices. We are working to arrange a public screening around the time of the March 8-9 weekend.

 Red and White Unplugged

Thursday, May 15 at 8:00 pm
The Garrick Centre, 330 Garry Street
Adults $28, Seniors $23, Students $12

Here’s where the “and now for something completely different!” comes in. Andrew and Vince Fontaine, leader of the Aboriginal rock band Eagle and Hawk, have talked about the possibility of a joint concert for several years. Vince now has a new band called Indian City with well-known stars like Don Amero and William Prince. The timing is perfect for Vince and Andrew to explore each other’s worlds. Andrew, Mel Braun and Richard Moody will be arranging some of Vince’s songs for choir and band. Also, traditional Aboriginal singer and drummer Cory Campbell will perform in a new work by Andrew called White Buffalo. Indigenous chant, rock and classical music will mix it up. It’s high time Winnipeg musicians (and audiences!) reached out in this way!

Sandi Mielitz, September 2013

DID YOU KNOW? In 2012, Camerata Nova volunteers contributed 2,500 hours of their time, energy and skills. They provided leadership on boards and committees. They lent production and administrative support. They advised and mentored. They enabled Camerata Nova to deliver exceptional programming to more than 2360+ audience members in the 2012-2013 season.

Empire Étrange – An Oratorio based on the Death of Louis Riel

For several years, I’ve been thinking about writing a score based on Louis Riel. His story is dramatic, even astounding. The tragedy and controversy surrounding his life sink deep into our Canadian identity and the echoes of his legacy are still being felt 123 years after his execution. What better subject for a dramatic choral work?

Letter from Louis Riel to his mother, written the day before his execution. (ASHSB, Fonds Louis, Ref. 1092-431)

Letter from Louis Riel to his mother, written the day before his execution. (ASHSB, Fonds Louis, Ref. 1092-431)

And so… after pitching the idea to Camerata Nova’s board, and after receiving a generous Commission Grant from the Manitoba Arts Council, I started in the summer of 2012 to delve deeply into the history of his life and times.

The more I read, the more excited I got. Riel is a dramatic subject worthy of any Wagnerian libretto! As a composer, the initial instinct is to approach this story in operatic form, but for this particular project it wasn’t feasible. For our purposes, I decided that an oratorio would be the best way to approach the story. There have been many plays, songs, poems, books (even comic books!), films and the celebrated opera by Harry Somers written in the 1960s, but I believe this is the first oratorio about Riel.

The idea of an oratorio also appealed because of the religious overtones in Riel’s story – visions came to him and he was, or viewed himself to be, the prophet in the New World – the new King David leading his people to the Promised Land. A prophet who led a rebellion, he was exiled to the United States (where he made a strong impression on people) and fought with issues of mental stability – he is just as powerful a subject for an oratorio as Elijah!

I have focused on Riel’s execution as the basis for this work, with a strong undercurrent of the trickster spirit coming in and out of the text and music. Along with singing, the choir will be producing sound effects using an eclectic assortment of evocative percussion instruments. The collaboration with the Correction Line Ensemble allows us to add the fantastic artistry of violinist Cristina Zacharias, cellist Leanne Zacharias, percussionist Ed Reifel, composer Robert Honstein and singer/songwriters John K. Sampson and Christine Fellows.

I’ve added a quasi-baroque foundation to the structure of this work, using an overture, arias, instrumental interludes (ritornelli), polyphony and plenty of dramatic chorus. Cristina and Leanne will even be using gut strings on their instruments à la period performance. The musical language, however, will be a bit more 21st century than 18th… To give us that troubadour/aria presence, I have inserted songs by John K. Samson and Christine Fellows into the body of the work.

I’m pretty excited about Empire Étrange. I feel I am bringing new musical drama to one of Canada’s greatest stories. I’m also really pumped about this whole concert, Tricksters and Troubadours. I believe our collaboration with the Correction Line Ensemble finds new ways to express our prairie reality, old and new. As our tag line for this performance says: Manitoba may never be the same…

Andrew Balfour, April 2013

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