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Songs of Freedom’s Measha Brueggergosman Reflects on her Roots

Songs of Freedom with Measha Brueggergosman

This Black History Month, VisionTV is proud to share an encore presentation of the award-winning music documentary, “Songs of Freedom with Measha Brueggergosman.”

In this film, Brueggergosman brings viewers on her quest to learn more about her family’s storied lineage, which stretches from Cameroon, Africa to Canada’s Maritimes. What’s more, the acclaimed soprano performs her favourite freedom songs, pieces of music that “emerged from Africa via the slave trade to America, then to Canada via the United Empire Loyalist migration and the Underground Railroad.”

VisionTV will be airing “Songs of Freedom” twice in its entirety this month (Monday, February 13 at Midnight ET/9pm PT and Tuesday, February 14 at 9pm ET/6pm PT), as well as in a four-episode version that’ll run Fridays from February 3-24 at 10pm ET/7pm PT.

Songs of Freedom Contest - Jan/Feb 2017

Brueggergosman recently released the “Songs of Freedom” album, “a collection of songs about emancipation, family, faith and discovery.” If you’d like a copy, enter here for your chance to win the CD! Contest closes Wednesday, February 22 at 11:59pm ET.

To get you set for “Songs of Freedom,” we’d like to share with you an excerpt that can be seen on the gorgeous, informative and interactive SongsOfFreedom.ca website. Here, Brueggergosman explains her musical origins, as well as what led to her interest in African American spiritual music.

-Adam Grant

Measha Brueggergosman: I started classical piano and singing lessons when I was seven years old. Now I am a classically trained opera singer. I was strongly influenced musically by the Brunswick Street Baptist Church, where I grew up watching my teacher perform every other Sunday. He was a professional musician and from there my lessons began. Getting that sort of musical engagement at such a young age was essential – it encouraged me and made me realize that going into classical music was possible. Once I dove into classical music, it consumed me.

From the outside, classical music can seem extremely confining. There are a lot of rules required to perfect the technique – but the result can be extremely beautiful. You must allow the rules to free you instead of constrain you.

In classical music you’re a part of this huge tradition of singers and musicians who have come before you. The genre spans centuries and reflects many societies, so there is a lot I can draw from. I’m standing on the shoulders of some pretty great people. It allows me to be better than I actually am. But now that I’m 37, I want to expand on what I know. I’ve lived with this voice for so long that as my life experiences expand – challenging, joyful and opulent – I can’t help but want more. So now I have begun to explore African American spirituals.

Songs of Freedom - Blessed Assurance

Be sure to visit SongsOfFreedom.ca for a ton of bonus content, including musical performances filmed with a special 360-degree camera. 

My exploration of African-American spirituals is a way for me to challenge my classically trained mind. It is helping me to become a better musician. But there is another reason why spirituals are so important to me. I wanted to explore this repertoire because it’s dear to my heart. These spirituals are close to my Christian faith. They are also a very important part of my family’s history. It is the music of my people. My ancestors were stolen from Africa and sold into slavery in the United States before finding freedom in Nova Scotia.

The spirituals were born out of a time when my people were oppressed and needed to find a way not only to communicate with each other, but also to express themselves. They created a powerful snapshot of their lives that still resonates with people today. The reason the songs survived so long is because of their immediacy. They have the universality of a mournful yet hopeful existence. They have strength. Every group of people who have held their elbows out to create room for themselves has these kinds of songs. My people have spirituals, which played a huge part in how my ancestors came to be here – free, no longer owned, no longer stolen – on the east coast of Canada.

I believe that life is about seeking freedom. Learning to be free is a lifelong process. I had to work for the freedom that I experience now. I try to feel as free as possible in all of my roles as a Christian, a human, a musician, a mom, and a wife, but some areas of my life are freer than others. Finding a way to let God control what can be controlled is helpful. It is so liberating for me. I don’t have to worry; His work is done with or without me. I’ve begun to realize that nothing is a mistake and I’m clearly meant to be here because I’ve been close to death several times. I can’t control things but I can react to things and I must do something with the time and the relationships I have.

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