BU, Scottish music festivals unite for joint performance

January 27, 2021

Collage of headshots of musicians. The Brandon University Music logo is in the upper left-hand corner, and the text Brandon University New Music Ensemble is at the bottom

While COVID-19 has shut down live performances for many musicians, the pandemic is also opening new doors for musical expression and international collaboration.

The Brandon University Indigenous New Music Festival will be streamed online this year, beginning with a joint performance on Saturday Jan. 30 by the Brandon University New Music Ensemble (BUNME) and Any Enemy (North East New Music Ensemble), a contemporary ensemble made up of musicians from northeast Scotland. The festival will conclude with a Pro Series concert featuring flutist Jessica McMann on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

Group of musicians seen on an online meeting platform

Any Enemy (North East New Music Ensemble) is made up of musicians from northeast Scotland.

Saturday’s performance will also be part of the Sound Scotland Festival’s Lockdown Composing project. The concert, beginning at 11 a.m. CST in Brandon (5 p.m. in the United Kingdom), will feature the world premieres of works by Scottish and Canadian composers: Ollie Hawker, Pete Stollery, Keith Hamel, Michael Ducharme and Melody McKiver. All My Requests by Anishinaabe composer McKiver portrays text by Saulteaux and Cree poet Brandi Bird. All works were co-commissioned by Sound Scotland and BUNME especially for this joint performance.

“Project Lockdown Composing and Performing explores the challenges, opportunities and complexities of creating new compositions for online performance by musicians in geographically separated locations,” said Megumi Masaki, Professor in the School of Music and conductor of the BU New Music Ensemble. “Learning new ways to collaborate, listen and perform online simultaneously in two countries positions our musicians to be inventive and strong.”

Any Enemy is conducted by Pete Stollery, who is a Professor of Composition and Electroacoustic Music at the University of Aberdeen. He delivers courses on the creative applications of technology in music education to University of Aberdeen students, schoolchildren and the general public.

“Sound is really pleased to be able to facilitate this opportunity for these four composers, not only to provide a focus during very trying times, but also to try to exploit the constraints under which we are having to work at the moment,” Stollery said. “I think this is a testament to our resilience as artists to try to come to terms with whatever is thrown at us and to get the best out of the situation that we can.”

The BU New Music Ensemble consists of Azaria Neuschwander (soprano), Léa Liu (flute), Jichen Wang (clarinet), Naomi Cord (bass clarinet), Sheva Schwartz (cello), Ren Wang (percussion), Reanne Vanden Brink (piano), William Neufeld (piano) and Masaki (conductor/piano).

A woman smiles while holding various types of flutes

Jessica McMann is a Cree flutist who will perform a Pro Series concert on Tuesday, Feb. 2. (Photo by Chelsea Yang-Smith, Calgary)

Tuesday’s performance by Jessica McMann will begin at 7:30 p.m. CST. McMann is a Cree musician, dancer and choreographer from Cowessess, Sask. She received her Bachelor of Music from the University of Calgary and her Master of Fine Arts in Contemporary Arts from Simon Fraser University.

McMann’s recent compositions explore Indigenous identity and history. She recorded her first CD at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity while she was an artist-in-residence.

“We are thrilled to headline Jessica McMann at the BU Indigenous New Music Festival 2021,” Masaki said. “Her music and performances transcend boundaries by tapping into classical flute music and Indigenous traditions to deliver a message of the resilience and strength of Indigenous women.”

Saturday’s performance by BUNME and Any Enemy can be streamed on at YouTube.com/watch?v=q27a5yuJddo&feature=youtu.be

Tuesday’s concert by Jessica McMann can be viewed at YouTube.com/watch?v=aKZBws6SGbc&feature=youtu.be

Both concerts will also be shown on the School of Music’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/BrandonUMusic/Live