This Saturday evening at Moncton’s Wesleyan Celebration Centre, acclaimed soprano Measha Brueggergosman will be bringing her family’s past into the present with some help from the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.
In Songs of Freedom, which aired as a four-part television special last month, Measha embarks on a spiritual journey in which she revisits her family having escaped slavery, her Cameroon ancestry and more, via “freedom songs” like “Amazing Grace,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” songs that emerged in Africa before finding their way to North America.
“My family had been approached with the idea of filming a documentary program in which my family’s ancestry would be traced. It was that documentary that opened up the prospect of curating a specifically-tailored soundtrack that was the ultimate enticement for me, mostly because the repertoire of spiritual material isn’t something that I have thoroughly mined at this point in my career. As I found out though, it is a rich catalogue and incredibly meaningful for all involved,” Measha says.
Acknowledging that she has always been proud of her heritage, in addition to being proud of her upbringing in New Brunswick, the vocalist says she had never delved into her family tree too intensively before Songs of Freedom.
“I’ve always been one to look forward and to live in the present, however, Songs of Freedom afforded me the opportunity to trace my roots, which I ended up enjoying immensely. I think what I enjoyed the most from seeing the television special was what it brought my parents, both of whom sacrificed so much for us to have the upbringing that we did. To have them see the fruits of their labour condensed into a 90 minute film was wonderful for both them and me.”
Measha’s journey towards the spiritual side of music is, by all accounts, a logical next step for her career. Since walking away as the grand prize winner at 2002’s Jeunesses Musicales International Competition, it has been one astounding highlight after another for the Fredericton native.
With a handful of releases on the acclaimed Deutsche Grammaphone classical music label, Measha has spent the last 14 years performing with the Berlin Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic. She has also made solo appearances at some of the world’s most iconic venues, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall, and the Kennedy Centre.
Despite the widely-held notion that she is a classical or opera vocalist, Measha’s musical versatility has been repeatedly proven, so much so that she considers herself an interpreter of song, no matter what style that song happens to fall into.
“I am nothing but grateful and humbled by the opportunities that have been presented to me by classical music. There is still so much ground to tackle, it continues to kick my butt,” she says with a laugh.
“Career-wise for me, however, music is about working with people better than me, no matter where they happen to fall on the spectrum. I want to feel inspired with the music I make, and, ultimately, just want to make myself as attractive in terms of being a collaborator on different styles of music.”
Part of being open to performing different styles of music allows Measha to undertake a wide range of collaborations, including her show with the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra on Saturday night.
Combining her long-time support of the Sistema musical outreach program with her personal experience of having been enrolled for piano and voice lessons at the age of seven, Measha relishes the opportunity to perform with groups like the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra.
“Seeing the work that Sistema and the orchestra do here New Brunswick is a definite source of pride. I’m more than happy to do whatever I can to further that along,” she says.
“Having the opportunity to see the next generation of musicians is just amazing.”
What: The New Brunswick Youth Orchestra perform Songs of Freedom with special guest artist Measha Brueggergosman
When: Saturday March 19, 7 p.m.
Where: Moncton Wesleyan Celebration Centre, 945 St. George St., Moncton
Tickets start at $20 plus service charges. Advance tickets are available by phone 1-877-700-3130