Concert showcases black composers


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In a homecoming of sorts, the Steinbach Arts Council will welcome internationally recognized artists, Catherine Daniel and Darryl Friesen as they share a repertoire by black composers on March 17.

Catherine Daniel brings her classical training and experience as an operatic mezzo-soprano joining forces with Steinbach native Darryl Friesen on the piano.

The pair first met at the University of Manitoba between 2003 and 2007 when Daniel was working on her undergraduate degree and Friesen was achieving his masters.

Friesen said they also attended the same church and have remained connected since those university days.

“We’re really excited to be able to get back together on the stage,” he said.

Friesen had worked on a similar project before but said both he and Daniel came up with the choices of which music should be featured including Jamaican, Haitian and American born composers.

The concert is also an opportunity to come home for Friesen who said much of his family still lives in the area.

“It’s just always really gratifying realizing these are the people that form the community that supported me as I was growing as a musician,” he said, recalling his many hours of piano instruction he received in Steinbach. “I really value that time in my life.”

Friesen has given performances as both a soloist and collaborative artist across Canada, the United States, Europe, China and Brazil, but coming home still ranks highly for him.

“It’s just such a joy performing for people that you know,” he said. “I’m excited to be back.”

The program features the works of composers Maria Thompson Corley, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Carmen Brouard, Rosephayne Powell, Edouard Woolley, and Lena McLin, bringing elements of the classical French movement and influences of gospel and spiritual.

“There’s an enormous range of the influences that these different composers have had on themselves,” he said.

He’s also happy to be playing these pieces while someone sings.

“The challenge for pianists often is how to make this enormous machine through which you’re trying to play gorgeous music, how do we make this machine imitate something organic and living like a voice,” he said. “I love performing with voice. I think it’s in many ways the most natural form of music.”

Catherine Daniel lives in Edmonton. She too has travelled across North America and Europe with a long history of exploring various genres while also staying rooted in her classical training.

She said she’s excited to perform in Steinbach, and said so far, all the work they’ve done on this project has been rehearsed separately.

“Darryl and I will be putting all the magic together later this week,” she said.

Daniel said the intimacy of a studio style concert, though this is being held at Grace Mennonite Church and not the Steinbach Arts Council studio itself, allows her to be more accessible to the audience.

She said often opera singers are screened by a full orchestra, on a big stage, wearing costumes that can make them seem inaccessible.

“I love these opportunities,” she said, before admitting that wasn’t always the case.

“I didn’t like talking about what I was singing and really inviting the audience in but as I get older and sort of honed my craft more, I realized that this is audience building.”

“This is a new kind of communication and it’s great for the audience and a great experience for me as a performer and storyteller,” she added.

She hopes to see a good crowd.

“It’s going to be beautiful music,” she said. “Darryl and I both love what we do so much, and I know it’s going to be an enjoyable experience.”

The show takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 17 at the Grace Mennonite Church. Tickets are $24 for adults and $12 for students and can be purchased at or by calling 204-346-1077.

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