music

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Remembering Helen Martens

Helen Martens, the first music professor at Conrad Grebel University College, plays the piano and leads a Grebel choir in 1969. (Photo by David L. Hunsberger / Mennonite Archives of Ontario)

WATERLOO—Helen Martens, Conrad Grebel University College’s first music faculty member, passed away on April 9 at the age of 92, surrounded by family in Winnipeg. She last visited Grebel in 2013 during the college’s 50th anniversary.

MennoMedia: Do not sing together if you are gathering physically for worship

(Image by 微博/微信:愚木混株/Pixabay)

With stay-at-home orders being lifted across much of the U.S. and Canada, churches are thinking about what it will look like to open their doors again. Yet because the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much with us, it is up to churches to consider how to do so safely. 

Sundays without singing

(Image by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay)

Never thought there would be Sundays without singing. 

Like churches across Canada, ours has been shuttered as a precaution against the novel coronavirus. I understand why this must be, but I sure miss getting together and joining our voices.


'Singing solo is lonely,' writes Carl DeGurse (pictured).

Musician offers online singalong

Singing into an iPad propped on top of a stack of books, Bryan Moyer Suderman leads an online singalong from his home, to help people connect and find encouragement and hope during days of physical distancing. (Photo by Julie Moyer Suderman)

“A little bit of yeast makes the whole dough rise . . . you do your part; I’ll do mine,” sings Bryan Moyer Suderman, using his body as a percussion instrument. But instead of singing at a concert or a worship service, the itinerant musician is at home singing into an iPad propped up on a stack of books, doing his part to practise physical distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Worship apprentices provide a resource for the church

Students in the Worship Apprentice Program at Conrad Grebel University College, including Rowan Martin (left) and Eunice Femi-Gege (right), tested their skills by leading worship at St. Agatha (Ont.) Mennonite Church on Nov. 17. (Photo by Fred W. Martin)

Students in the Worship Apprentice Program at Conrad Grebel University College come from a wide range of academic programs and church denominations. Pictured from left to right: Chris Fischer, Professor Kate Steiner, Matthias Mostert, Eunice Femi-Gege, Mykayla Turner and Rowan Martin. (Photo by Margaret Gissing)

When students in Grebel’s Worship Apprentice Program led worship at St. Agatha (Ont.) Mennonite Church in November, Colin Friesen, left, a master of theological studies student, joined them and gave the message. Also pictured, from left to right: Rowan Martin, Matthias Mostert, Yeabsra Agonfer, Eunice Femi-Gege, and Mykayla Turner. (Photo by Fred W. Martin)

Every Tuesday, a diverse team of University of Waterloo students gathers for prayer, small group discussion, song teaching and worship-service planning. These students are part of the Worship Apprentice Program offered by Conrad Grebel University College’s Music Department as a skill-building opportunity within the Church Music and Worship Program. 

The purpose and joy of congregational singing

Worshippers sing at Mennonite Church Canada's Assembly 2016 in Saskatoon. "We sing... because it is a unique corporate experience," music professor Curtis Funk says. (MC Canada file photo by Matt Veith)

“I turned the key and the stillness of the morning was shattered by the uneven rumbling of the engine. Everything was ready for the day’s work. In a few minutes, the pickup would drive onto the farmyard and empty its load of Mexican labourers. But for now I was alone. I eased the clutch out and the tractor lurched forward, pulling the portable packing shed behind it into the orchard.

Watch: MC USA leader sings Nirvana

Glen Guyton, executive director of Mennonite Church USA, sings “Come As You Are” at the 2019 MC USA Convention in Kansas City last month. (Photo courtesy of MC USA)

Imagine Doug Klassen, executive minister of Mennonite Church Canada, singing a song by an acclaimed ‘90s grunge band at MC Canada’s next nationwide gathering.

It may sound far-fetched, but our counterparts in the United States have a sense of what that would be like.

Watch: Conrad Grebel’s viral video

The University of Waterloo Balinese Gamelan in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Conrad Grebel University College)

Over the last two years, Conrad Grebel University College’s YouTube channel has become a go-to source for quality gamelan videos. 

This moderate internet fame is spurred on by one performance in particular—a piece called "Hujan Mas" performed by the University of Waterloo Balinese Gamelan at their end-of-term concert in March 2017.

Watch it now:

Watch: Spotlight on Cris Derksen

Cellist and composer Cris Derksen grew up in northern Alberta. (Photo courtesy of CrisDerksen.Virb.com)

The bio on Cris Derksen’s website says it well: The “Juno-nominated and classically trained cellist and composer braids the traditional and contemporary, weaving her classical background and her Indigenous ancestry together with new school electronics to create genre-defying music.”

Ten years after ‘Points of View’

The Other Brothers (Chris Neufeld, left, and Donovan Giesbrecht) in March 2009. (Photo by Mark Reimer)

On April 3, 2009, southern Manitoba-based folk group the Other Brothers released Points of View. Recorded in the studio at Mennonite Church Manitoba, the album earned critical acclaim—CBC dubbed them “the Simon and Garfunkel of the Prairies”—and a small but loyal following.

Impacting the universe with the sounds we make

Ysaÿe Barnwell, visiting scholar for the Sawatsky Lecture, teaches a clapping rhythm to her audience at Conrad Grebel University College during an interactive presentation filled with demonstrations of the power of music to create inclusive communities. (Photo by Jennifer Konkle)

With her powerful, resonant voice, Ysaÿe Barnwell, composer, vocalist, speaker and former member of the African-American female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock, began to sing “Amazing Grace,” stretching out the length of each phrase. Members of the audience started to hum along. Soon she invited everyone to sing in full voice.

Voices Together visual art chosen

‘Alive,’ a pen and ink drawing by Anne H. Berry, chosen for the theme of ‘the death and resurrection of Jesus.’ (Courtesy of MennoMedia)

‘Nine patch No. 8,’ a monotype by Brenton Good, chosen for the theme of ‘praying.’ (Courtesy of MennoMedia)

Visual art for the Voices Together hymnal has been chosen by the Mennonite Worship and Song Committee. The 12 visual art pieces selected will appear in the forthcoming hymnal—including the pew, worship leader, digital app and projection editions.

They put a spell on you

‘One of the best things about the group is the community and friendships,’ Incantatem co-founder Allison Alexander says. (Photo by Kyle Rudge)

Formed in January 2016, Incantatem performs music from movies, TV shows and video games. (Photo by James Cheng)

Non-geeks and non-Christians are invited to join Incantatem, which rehearses every Monday evening at River East Church in Winnipeg. (Photo by Kyle Rudge)

Don’t expect to hear anything by Bach, Brahms or Beethoven if you attend a performance by Winnipeg’s Incantatem. The a cappella choir’s repertoire has a unique focus: music from movies, TV shows and video games.

Peacebuilding monster

Anna Bigland-Pritchard, left, with her Seanster and the Monsters bandmates, pictured from left to right: Tim Braun, Sean Hogan, Marcel Desilets and Scott Young. (Photo by Mike Latschislaw)

Anna Bigland-Pritchard, right, with her Seanster and the Monsters bandmates, pictured from left to right: Tim Braun, Scott Young, Sean Hogan and Marcel Desilets. (Photo by Mike Latschislaw)

Stripes with Platypus is the second album from Seanster and the Monsters.

Anna Bigland-Pritchard never anticipated becoming a monster, but today she wouldn’t be anything else.

The 26-year-old Winnipegger is a member of children’s musical act Seanster and the Monsters. The group, which describes itself as “stuck somewhere between They Might Be Giants and Fred Penner,” released its sophomore album, Stripes with Platypus, earlier this month. 

Experiencing Christmas by lamplight

Oil lamps light the sanctuary of the little church as guests arrive to experience ‘Christmas by lamplight.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Guests arriving for ‘Christmas by lamplight’ at the Mennonite Heritage Museum’s church building in Rosthern, Sask. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Guests enjoy singing carols, listening to stories, drinking hot chocolate and eating peppernuts at the Mennonite Heritage Museum’s ‘Christmas by Lamplight.’ (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Organist Barb Wolfe accompanies the carol singing on the church’s pump organ. (Photo by Donna Schulz)

Old-fashioned oil lamps graced each windowsill in the tiny sanctuary, their steady flames bathing the room in warm light as people filed into the pews. The people came to experience “Christmas by lamplight.”

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