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Camerata Nova excites with Taken

Two small ensemble classical concerts at Canada Scene this weekend presented a striking contrast between the experimental and the traditional. One was innovative, inclusive and thoroughly engaging, despite some flaws in the execution. The other was technically impeccable, but stuffy and unoriginal.

On Saturday afternoon, the Winnipeg chamber choir Camerata Nova brought its Taken project to the University of Ottawa’s Tabaret Hall. The show, which premiered in Winnipeg earlier this year, explores the issue of First People’s dispossession through collaborations with Indigenous composers and performers from across Canada.

Jeremy Dutcher, a young musician from the Maliseet Nation in New Brunswick, performed an impassioned, solo Honour Song, accompanying himself on drum and piano, before joining Camerata Nova and cellist Leanne Zacharias for his Maceptasu (It is taken away).

The work — Dutcher’s compositional debut — was inspired by heartbreaking stories of young Indigenous children taken from their families and sent to suffer in the residential school system. Although it exhibits some typical novice weaknesses — it’s somewhat fragmented, and relies on repetition rather than development — this is a powerful, appealing first effort from Dutcher. What it lacks in structural complexity, it makes up for in raw honesty, emotional impact, and a sense of melodic flow that can’t be taught.

Lindsay Knight, aka Eekwol, is a hip-hop artist from Muskoday First Nation in Saskatchewan. While her flow is cool and mellow, her raps are tough, thought-provoking and fearlessly political: “I wish I had a gun, seek revenge for my little ones, or maybe turn it on myself, end the pain, but then I’d just lose again.” As Zacharias improvised cello lines, Camerata Nova supplied the backing track, including some pretty slick beatboxing and overtone singing. But not everyone in the choir seemed comfortable in the genre; I felt the sopranos especially weren’t in the pocket.

Andrew Balfour’s Qaumaniq (Bright Aura) is an accomplished, multi-movement cantata by a serious — and seriously creative — composer. Balfour, Camerata Nova’s artistic director, is of Cree descent but was adopted as a child by an Anglican priest. Not surprisingly, many of his works deal with identity lost and found, and with the consequences of exchanges between cultures.

In Qaumaniq, Balfour imagines the first encounter between explorer Martin Frobisher and the inhabitants of Baffin Island, and the kidnapping of a woman to take back to England. The work deftly incorporates Inuit musical idioms, English sailor songs, pounding, Coplandesque percussion, snippets of Tudor polyphony by Tallis and Byrd, and Balfour’s own sophisticated choral writing: dissonances that grind like sea ice, mixed in with creepy, sibilant whispering and sounds of nature.

The star of this piece is the wonderfully charismatic performer and journalist Madeleine Allakariallak; her throat singing duet with Michael Thompson on electric didgeridoo was captivating and wholly new. Fred Ford’s sensitive, uncontrived narration added poetic depth.

After Louis Riel, it was refreshing and inspiring to sit through a concert where living Indigenous artists told their own stories and experiences. In comparison, The Circle of Creation, Tafelmusik’s Bach multimedia show at Southam Hall Sunday night, was a throwback to music as museum set piece.

The concept seems promising: present the artisans, craftspeople and tradespeople who made Bach’s output in Leipzig possible: from the makers of string and wind instruments, to the experts who made his paper and ink, to the cloth merchants who supplied the taxe revenue that paid his salary.

Unfortunately, the whole thing felt like one of those old-fashioned “monuments of Western Civilization” continuing ed courses: the almost comically high-toned narration, obsessed with the dullest minutiae; the static, literal video and photography projections (the selection for Sheep may safely graze was, surprise, pastoral images of sheep grazing); and a frustrating greatest hits, WQXR approach to the music, all single movements and excerpts instead of complete works.

Toronto’s beloved Baroque orchestra plays so beautifully, with such grace and buoyancy, with so much collegial virtuosity, it either requires nothing, or else it demands supporting creative elements that are every bit as thrilling and fresh.

Still, the evening wasn’t entirely without excitement. About 10 minutes into the first half, a man started loudly heckling from the audience, complaining in French that the narration was only in English. After his third eruption, other Francophones in the audience started yelling at him to be quiet. It was easily the most dramatic outburst I’ve seen at a concert in years. How typical of Ottawa that it was over language politics, not artistic merit.

– Natasha Gauthier, artsfile.ca

Taken at Canada Scene in Ottawa

Winnipeg’s internationally acclaimed Camerata Nova choir continues to evolve in its own imaginative, risk-taking and quirky way, with early, contemporary and Indigenous-infused music remaining its pillars. The choir enjoys straying from the path too, though, and uses theatrical and visual design to engage its audience in profound and surprising ways.

For these and many other reasons, Camerata Nova has been chosen to participate in the huge Canada Scene festival organized by the National Arts Centre (NAC) as part of the Canada 150 celebrations. The NAC has asked Camerata Nova to do a repeat performance of its March 2017 show Taken on June 17 in Ottawa.

If you are in Ottawa or have friends and family interested in seeing the show, please see additional details on time, location and ticket purchases on the NAC website. To see a video excerpt from the Manitoba performance, visit our website.

2017-2018 Season

You won’t want to miss Camerata Nova’s exciting 2017-2018 season! Vic Pankratz, John Wiens and Mel Braun will all be returning to conduct new shows. All the details are now on our website, and both subscriptions and single tickets can be purchased on our online store. We look forward to seeing everyone there!

Voicing Your Support

Thank you for another successful season – we could not have done it without you!

As a supporter, you know that Camerata Nova has fearlessly advanced its unique art form and delivered a rich tapestry of sounds and surprisingly profound musical experiences for over two decades. If you haven’t already given in 2017, we ask that you consider making a tax-receiptable gift towards our end-of season campaign, or towards our upcoming 2017-2018 season.

You can support our work by contacting us directly at info@cameratanova.com or 204.918.4547. Or take up the Great Canadian Giving Challenge (until June 30) and securely donate to Camerata Nova via the CanadaHelps button on our website. From now until the end of June, each dollar will earn Camerata Nova one chance to win a grand prize draw of $10,000!

Thank you again for your support!

Upcoming Concert: Isolation

On Saturday, April 8 and Sunday April 9, Camerata Nova’s singers will weave the glowing and intricate lines of Renaissance composers like Cardoso, Gombert, Créquillon and White as well as by a new composition by Artistic Director Andrew Balfour. Read more in the latest blog.

Impressions of Taken

Local professor, writer and poet Sue Sorensen has written a response to our world premiere of Taken. Read it here: Impressions of Taken

Wine Raffle

For its 2016-2017 season, Camerata Nova is offering you the chance to win a selection of wines from The Winehouse (value of $500). Tickets are available for $5 each and can be purchased by contacting Camerata Nova at info@cameratanova.com or 204.918.4547. The draw will be held at our April 9 performance of Isolation at St. Alphonsus Roman Catholic Church.

Camerata Nova at Canada Scene!

We will be participating in Canada Scene, a massive gathering of artists from across the country, organized by the National Arts Centre for the 150th anniversary of Canada. We will be travelling to Ottawa around June 17, 2017 and performing our Taken concert, which Manitobans get to hear first on March 4 and 5, 2017. Camerata Nova had previously participated in the NAC’s Prairie Scene in 2011. Check for updates at nac-cna.ca/en/canadascene.

New Music Festival

We are very pleased to be invited back by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra to perform at the New Music Festival’s choral night on Monday, January 30, 2017 at Westminster United Church. We will once again be sharing the evening with Polycoro to present groundbreaking choral works, including several pieces by American composer Meredith Monk. An exciting and provocative experience awaits.

Manitoba Hydro Santa Claus Parade Concert

Get in the festive spirit! Before you take the kids to the
Santa Claus parade, enjoy a light holiday concert with
Camerata Nova at the Atrium of the Manitoba Hydro Building.
The free performance features Christmas classics and a
sing-along.
Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 2:30 pm.

New and Returning Curators/Conductors

We have made some changes to our creative team. Joining Andrew Balfour and Mel Braun is Vic Pankratz. Vic brings his creativity, experience and knowledge of choral repertoire to our group. You’ll get your first taste of his exciting output with Camerata Nova at Euro Nova. We also welcome the passionate and equally knowledgeable, John Wiens. Recently returned from Montréal, John replaces Ross Brownlee as our early music curator/conductor. John’s first concert with us was the masterful British Mysteries last April. More exceptional music-making can be expected next April with Isolation.

Balfour at Montreal Baroque Festival

The internationally acclaimed group Ensemble Caprice invited Andrew to collaborate on a composition and perform in La Grande Gigue, a Métis-themed concert that they presented at the 14th Montreal Baroque Festival on June 24th. The experience was a major feather in Andrew’s cap and helped Camerata Nova get closer to the movers and shakers in the Montréal music scene. Andrew will be touring with Ensemble Caprice in 2017. If funding allows, it may be presented in Winnipeg… Stay tuned!

‘Take the Indian’ at CMHR

A special performance of composer Andrew Balfour’s original work Take the Indian: A Vocal Reflection on Missing Children will be held at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 7:00 pm. The evening will include a traditional ceremony and a panel discussion with Indigenous Elders and others.

Balfour, who is of Cree descent, created this moving piece about the dark legacy of Indian residential schools after attending hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Check out a blog posting, written by Balfour’s sister Shelagh for more on Andrew in her post ‘About Andrew, my brother“.

The CMHR has helped organize this event as part of its commitment to contribute to the national conversation about reconciliation in diverse and meaningful ways. Those who attend will receive a free Museum pass so they can explore The Witness Blanket, a powerful art installation made from 800 pieces of residential schools from all across Canada, before the exhibition closes on June 25.

CONGRATULATIONS!

Congratulations to the Kelvin High School Senior Chamber Choir who were awarded the Camerata Nova Bursary at the 2016 Winnipeg Music Festival for their excellent rendition of Giuseppe Pitoni’s Cantate Domino, as arranged by Norman Greyson. The bursary is awarded to the most outstanding performance of early music by a vocalist or choir.

VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR

Congratulations to our president, Sandi Mielitz, who has been awarded the Investors Group Arts & Culture Award for Volunteer Excellence for her work with Camerata Nova! Please consider joining us for the 33rd Annual Volunteer Awards, which will be held on April 28th at the RBC Convention Centre Winnipeg, to honour Sandi and other deserving Manitobans who represent excellence in volunteerism and community engagement in our province. Click here for more info.

OUTREACHING FOR THE STARS

In 2015-2016, Camerata Nova is offering its very first outreach program in partnership with the expansive Frontier School Division. Aiming to empower kids to express themselves using sounds and soundscapes, artistic director Andrew Balfour and singer/didgeridoo player Michael Thompson visited Bissett, Wanipigow, Black River and Matheson Island in the eastern part of Division 2, from November 30 to December 4, 2015. During phase 2, which happened from March 21 to 24, 2016, they will continue their musical adventure on the western side, in Grand Rapids, Camperville, Duck Bay and Pine Creek.

A PEAK IN THE PAST

Hard to believe, but we’re 20 years old! Visit the 20th anniversary page to read highlights of Camerata Nova’s journey and to see photos and posters of the past 20 years. Also, if you happen to have photos to add to our collection, please contact us!

EARLY MUSIC WORKSHOP

Camerata Nova presents an informal early music workshop on Saturday, November 21, 2015, from 1:30 to 3:00 pm at Westminster United Church. Conductor Ross Brownlee and noted sackbut player Catherine Motuz from Montréal will coach interested choristers and instrumentalists on 17th-century performance practice using selected pieces from the beautiful Praetorius Christmas Mass. Singers, as well as modern and period players of ANY instrument (string, wind or brass) are all welcome. Singers and instrumentalists will first meet and work separately, then gather for a rehearsal and fun performance! Fee is $10, payable at the door.

CAMERATA NOVA’S SANTA CLAUS PARADE CONCERT

Gearing up for the holiday season, join us for a sing-along at 2:00 pm on Saturday, November 28, 2015, before the Manitoba Hydro Santa Claus Parade. We’ll be giving back to the community with a free concert in the atrium of the Manitoba Hydro building featuring Christmas classics – a great way to get into the holiday spirit! Before you take the kids to the parade, enjoy a light holiday concert with Camerata Nova in the Atrium of the Manitoba Hydro Building.