Freddy the runaway bison inspires composer to create musical piece in his wake

A local musician has penned a musical piece about a wily bison who refuses to stay penned up.

A new composition called Run Freddy Run will premiere at Camerata Nova's concert this weekend

Freddy the Bison does not like to stay in his pen. Now, the famed southern Manitoba bison has a musical composition dedicated to his exploits. (Anne Miller/Freddy the Bison Facebook page)

A Manitoba musician has penned a new musical piece about a wily bison who refused to stay penned up.

Locals in Lorette, Man. — 25 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg — know all about Freddy the Bison, whose near-daily escapes from his pen on Provincial Road 405 earlier this year became a source of considerable amusement on social media, and even spawned shirts emblazoned with the slogan "Run Freddy Run."

Now, Run, Freddy, Run! is a musical piece which will have its world premiere this weekend at a concert by the Winnipeg vocal group Camerata Nova.

"I'm from Winnipeg, and you really only realize how special the heirloom bison culture and the bison branding here is when you leave," said composer Eliot Britton, originally from Manitoba and now an assistant professor of composition at the University of Toronto.

When he came back to his home province, he would pepper his Instagram and Facebook pages with pictures of bison, his favourite animal. And when CBC did the story in January about Freddy the "brazen bison," he said his attention was hooked.

A bison who keeps escaping its pen is creating a buzz in the community of Lorette. The CBC's Austin Grabish travelled to Lorette in search of Freddy the bison. 2:15

In Freddy's honour, he put together a choral piece that features flowing harmony "of Renaissance polyphony. But there's also some bison sounds that are in there woven in," he said.

The song is also peppered with spoken parts that quote some things locals have said about Freddy, including "He looks like a bison. I don't want to be insensitive but they all look the same … you know?"

The goal of the piece was to interweave older forms of ​Métis culture with new, said Britton, who is himself ​Métis.

His piece is being presented this weekend as part of the lineup for Camerata Nova's latest concert, titled Red River Song.

"Music is meant to grow and evolve," said Andrew Balfour, artistic director of Camerata Nova, which commissioned the new work.

"There's nothing more Canadian than what I think we're doing, [which] is adding different elements to what is very Canadian in Métis culture.… It's a thrill and fun to do."

Because Camerata Nova is a chamber classical ensemble, they're able to work on innovative collaborations, said Balfour, adding Britton's piece is a "perfect example" of that innovation.

Britton said he's not sure why the bison is such a compelling figure for Manitobans.

"A bison can somehow be tragic but somehow heroic, but also kind of funny like Morty in the MTS bison period," he said, referring to the former MTS advertising mascot.

"It can also be kind of sentimental and it can be terrifying, so … it can be a lot of things to a lot of different people."

Camerata Nova's Red River Song concert, including the world premiere of Run, Freddy, Run!, will be presented Saturday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 29 at 3:00 p.m. at Église du Précieux-Sang (200 Kenny St.).

With files from Austin Grabish and Up to Speed