Peter Christensen, sackbut with Douglas Kirk, cornet and Rachel Moody, violin(Ian Cameron)
I don't suppose many people would describe Winnipeg as an ethereal city. Deservedly or not, it has a reputation as a hunkered-down prairie metropolis whose structures and people are either built or have adapted to withstand hellish extremes of winter cold and summer heat, spring flooding of biblical proportions and man-eating mosquitos, the thought of which cause most other Canadians to shudder.
And yet for me, Winnipeg will always have an otherworldly, dream-like quality. Of course there are the astonishingly beautiful elm-lined streets of River Heights (probably the only place in North America you can still see this) and the famous Technicolor sunsets. But this was also where my grandparents landed--my father and his siblings in tow--after emigrating from Denmark. Dad soon went on to adventures elsewhere, but the rest of the clan remained, and so I spent many a youthful summer here, staying with my grandparents or my aunt in East Kildonan, playing pinball at Viking Gifts and Groceries (my uncle's store on Selkirk Avenue), and trying to survive the stifling humidity, so very different from dry-as-bone Calgary, where I grew up.
Winnipeg was also where I got my first real job as a musician, playing second trombone in the WSO for a year in 1990-91. Winnipeg has a great orchestra, and I made lots of friends and gained a whole whack of experience, but because it was only a one-year sabbatical replacement contract, it almost seemed over before it began.
With all this history, when I come back I am invariably overcome with a powerful feeling of déjà-vu. Wherever I go, the streets are overlaid with memories of happy times past, the most recent being a concert of Praetorius music with Camerata Nova concert in November 2008.
So it kind of makes sense that my trips to Winnipeg now generally involve the performance of compositions that are some 400 years old. The rarely heard music of Lassus and Gabrieli has an exquisite, mystical grace that most people wouldn't immediately associate with a city like Winnipeg. But if you ask me, it's a natural fit.
Peter Christenson (Ian Cameron)
Former member of the Winnipeg and Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestras, and now based in Montreal, sackbut player Peter Christensen (Twitter @petergarner) is active in that city's early music scene and also frequently performs with early music ensembles elsewhere in North America.
This content is provided by Peter Christensen. The views expressed do not express the views of CBC. CBC is not responsible for this content.
View behind-the scenes interviews with Camerata Nova conductor Ross Brownlee, cornettist and early music historian Dr. Douglas Kirk, and sackbutist, Peter Christensen.
(Conrad Sweatman, video)