Interplay workshop offers opportunity for composers to hear scores come to life

Three CMU students and one alumnus recently had a unique opportunity to receive professional feedback on their scores from the Vancouver Chamber Choir and conductor Jon Washburn.

03-09-2016 Interplay workshop 1At the Interplay workshop on February 20, CMU students Mark Holmes a Court, Dominique Lemoine, Tirzah Lyons, and alumnus Jesse Krause (CMU ’10), heard their scores come alive as they were sight read by the choir. Their scores were chosen from among those submitted in response to an open call for compositions.

Interplay is an opportunity for Canadian composers who write for chorus to workshop their in-progress or recently completed choral works with Jon Washburn and the twenty-member Vancouver Chamber Choir.

“It was an amazing opportunity to receive such valuable feedback and to hear my piece being performed by a professional, talented choir. I was able to get a sense of what worked and what didn’t,” says Lemoine. “Being immersed in the choral workshop environment gave me a better understanding of choral music. In addition, all of the gorgeous tones coming from the choir as they performed the various pieces in the workshop inspired me to want to produce more music for choirs.”

Each composer was allotted individual rehearsal time of approximately half an hour and the composers received comments and suggestions from Washburn and choir members. CMU music instructors Neil Weisensel and Randolph Peters were in attendance at the workshop.

“CMU is a place where choral music and singing is taken seriously. It’s nice to get a professional perspective as well—a professional critique will both appreciate beautiful things and good things the student has written and can also provide critique on page, notation, and stylistic elements,” says Peters.

Feedback provided in these workshops may focus on the score’s musical and technical features, pitch selection, strengths, flaws, textures, colours, presentation on the page, and notations, among other aspects of choral writing.

“It was great to hear my piece sung by a professional choir and to work with Jon Washburn, who has a lot of experience in conducting new music. Some of my compositional choices were confirmed and others were challenged, both of which will help me improve future compositions,” says Lyons. “I wish more people had attended, as I feel there was something for everyone to learn. I hope I have the opportunity to be a part of something like this again.”

Student Profiles

It is God who makes the music

Anneli Loepp Thiessen

A lifelong love of music and a fascination with worship led Anneli Loepp Thiessen to pursue a Bachelor of Music at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU).

Loepp Thiessen says her studies offer opportunities to explore questions such as: why do we worship? And what does it mean when we worship? Answers to questions such as these are complex, yet Loepp Thiessen suggests the root of the answer lies in viewing worship as a conversation.

“We are very used to worshipping and making music as a community, but it’s more than congregations often realize,” she says. “It’s about gathering as a community and what we’re saying to each other—what does it mean to us and what does it mean to God?”

As a worship director at Doon Presbyterian Church in Kitchener, Ontario for two summers, Loepp Thiessen explored this theory in a practical setting, drawing on her classroom learning, including theories and techniques learned in the course Leading Music and Worship. The position was a foundational one for her.

“I know that I’m going to be involved with church music for a long time,” she says. “Having this foundation from CMU has given me a really realistic expectation for worship and guidelines of how we approach worship.”

A quote by Johann Sebastian Bach encapsulates the connections Loepp Thiessen sees in the two concentrations she’s studying: music ministry and piano performance.

I play the notes as they are written, but it is God who makes the music. – Johann Sebastian Bach

“If as a solo pianist I am being true to what Bach intended, then it’s going to be an act of worship—I need to think of it as a conversation with God, which takes it to another level,” she says.

Bach is a favourite composer of Loepp Thiessen’s and at CMU she’s had the opportunity to perform his pieces as a solo performer, with the Mennonite Community Orchestra, with the CMU Singers, and with a solo singer, all of which she has greatly enjoyed. She’s appreciated the opportunities to learn how to provide accompaniment in different performance contexts.

Loepp Thiessen has also experienced the collaborative nature of CMU through faculty mentorships in each department of the music program. Witnessing the care and interest of faculty members has impressed upon her the importance of sharing music with others.

“When I graduate from CMU, one of the things that will stick with me is the idea that as musicians one of the most valuable things we can do is be mentors,” says Loepp Thiessen. She’s already sharing her passion for and knowledge of music with others by teaching piano at CMU’s Community School of Music and the Arts.

Loepp Thiessen says studying music at CMU has surpassed her expectations.

“There is no school that offers such a wide range of disciplines within the music program, does them so well, and within the context of Christian community.”

Learn more about CMU’s Bachelor of Music degree:

Events News Releases

Community invited to celebrate 15th annual Christmas at CMU

Annual create-your-own-concert event features more than 100 musicians

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) invites the community to celebrate the start of Advent at its 15th annual Christmas at CMU concert event.

Christmas at CMU takes place on Saturday, November 28 at the university (500 Shaftesbury Blvd.). There are two concerts: one at 2:00 PM and the other at 7:00 PM. Admission for both concerts is free, and all are welcome to attend.

Rudy Schellenberg, Professor Emeritus of Music and one of the event’s key organizers, is joyfully anticipating the concerts.

“It’s really an intergenerational event, which is the great thing about it,” Schellenberg says. “There’s something for everybody.”

More than 100 performers are involved in the event, which features CMU choirs; vocal and instrumental jazz; a classical guitar ensemble; and performances by the university’s music faculty.

Christmas at CMU is a multi-generational, interactive event that allows family, friends, and neighbours of all ages to mingle in CMU’s beautiful heritage building.

Part of the event’s appeal is that people who attend do not have to sit in the same spot for an hour-and-a-half.

Music ensembles will be stationed in different parts of the university, allowing attendees to create their own concert by walking around the festively decorated campus—all while enjoying hot apple cider and cookies.

ChristmasCMUHighlights of this year’s event include Making Room for the Angel’s Song, a multimedia monologue taking place in CMU’s Great Hall. Based on Luke 1:26–38 with music from George Crumb’s A Little Suite for Christmas, the piece will feature CMU President Cheryl Pauls on piano.

Meanwhile, Dietrich Bartel, Associate Professor of Music, will read How the Grinch Stole Christmas in CMU’s Faculty & Staff Lounge, with CMU student Jesse Dollimont performing musical selections from the famed 1966 animated TV special to accompany him.

Following that performance, all children and parents are welcome to make music with Rebecca Harder, a CMU alumna and instructor with the university’s Community School of Music and the Arts.

Christmas at CMU will end with an audience carol sing in the Loewen Athletic Centre, an annual tradition that always culminates with everyone singing Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

“There’s something universal about the Hallelujah Chorus that is a great summation of the purpose of this event,” Schellenberg says. “It’s a highlight every year.”

Since it was first held in 2001, Christmas at CMU has become an important event on the university’s calendar. Each of the two concerts draws approximately 700 people.

Alumni and friends from Saskatchewan, Alberta, and even southern Ontario travel to Winnipeg to attend.

“Christmas at CMU is our gift to the constituency that supports the university and to the community at large,” Schellenberg says. “It is a thank you for all the donations and students that CMU benefits from.”

While Schellenberg is co-organizing this year’s event, his retirement this past spring means he will not be conducting any of the ensembles.

“For the first time, I’ll be able to walk the halls and enjoy the music along with the audience,” Schellenberg says. “I think I’ll come to both concerts.”

For the complete Christmas at CMU schedule, please visit

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences, and social sciences, as well as graduate degrees in theology, ministry, peacebuilding and collaborative development, and an MBA. CMU has over 800 full-time equivalent students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury and Menno Simons College campuses and in its Outtatown certificate program. 

For information about CMU visit

For additional information, please contact:
Kevin Kilbrei, Director of Communications & Marketing; 204.487.3300 Ext. 621
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

Events News Releases

CMU announces the 10th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition

CMU_2015_Verna_Mae_Janzen_Music_Competition_PosterThe 10th annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition at Canadian Mennonite University will feature six finalists: three vocalists, two pianists, and one cellist.

The competition will take place on January 28, 2015 at 7:30PM in CMU’s Laudamus Auditorium, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd.

The finalists, chosen out of 16 competitors, are: Alyssa Hildebrand (voice), Anna Bigland-Pritchard (voice), Anneli Loepp Thiessen (piano), Breanna Heinrichs (piano), Deidre Borus (voice), and Yuna Chin (cello). They will compete for $700, $500, and $300 prizes, which will be awarded by jurors Darryl Friesen and Terry Mierau.

The Verna Mae Janzen Competition, open to CMU music students, is made possible each year through the generous contributions of the event sponsor and prize donor, Peter Janzen of Deep River, Ontario. Janzen established the competition in memory of his wife, Verna Mae, who died of cancer in 1989 at the age of 53, and who shared the joy of singing with her husband. Each year, Janzen has attended the final round of the competition, which he will do again this year.

The event is open to the public and a reception will follow.

About CMU
A Christian university in the Anabaptist tradition, CMU’s Shaftesbury campus offers undergraduate degrees in arts, business, humanities, music, sciences and social sciences, and graduate degrees in Theology and Ministry. CMU has over 1,600 students, including those enrolled in degree programs at the Shaftesbury campus and in its Menno Simons College and Outtatown programs.

For information about CMU, visit:

For additional information, please contact:

David Klassen, Instructor of Music; 204-487-3300 ext. 615
Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2

Events News Releases

CMU School of Music in Partnership with Professor Bach Project Present Bachtoberfest: An Evening in Leipzig

For the fifth annual Professor Bach Project, co-artistic directors Rosemarie van der Hooft and Mel Braun have teamed up with Dr. Dietrich Bartel, Musicology Professor and Dr. Janet Brenneman, conductor and Dean of Canadian Mennonite University’s School of Music, to offer a unique experience of Bach’s music.

Bachtoberfest Web PosterHosted by Canadian Mennonite University (CMU), Bachtoberfest: An Evening in Leipzig will transport audience members to 18th century Germany. Beginning in the Laudamus Auditorium with Vespers at Thomaskirche, Bach’s Cantata BWV 78 Jesu, der du meine Seele will be presented in its liturgical setting.

Then, as was customary upon leaving the Thomaskirche, the audience will retire to Zimmermann’s Kaffeehaus (also known as CMU’s Great Hall) for coffee and dessert, along with varied interpretations of Bach’s secular music – think solo Bach, Hercules, Jazz, and Beatboxing.

Following the mentorship model of the Professor Bach Project, performances will feature professional and student musicians and singers collaborating together, and new for this year, a CMU alumni choir.

Experience Bachtoberfest: An Evening in Leipzig at Canadian Mennonite University (500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg) on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 PM.

General Admission $10 | CMU Students $5

For more information, please contact:

Rose van der Hooft, Music Instructor
School of Music, Canadian Mennonite University
500 Shaftesbury Blvd., Winnipeg, MB  R3P 2N2
Phone: 204.487.3300

Alumni Profiles Articles

Royal Canoe guitarist talks about how CMU has shaped his life

Royal Canoe guitarist Bucky Driedger (bottom left) graduated from CMU in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, with a concentration in Communications.

August 22, 2013 – With its forward-thinking blend of pop, rock, hip hop, dance, soul, and electronic music, as well as its energetic live shows, Royal Canoe has made a name for itself as one of Winnipeg’s most exciting bands.

Two of the band’s singles have reached the Top 5 on CBC Radio 3, they have toured throughout North America and Europe, and they’ve earned praise from venerable publications like The New York Times to blogs like This Music Doesn’t Suck, which described the band’s sound as “a clever blend of aesthetics and genres executed with a confidence and expertise usually reserved for more established groups.”

Bucky Driedger, Royal Canoe’s guitarist, backing vocalist and co-songwriter, sees a clear connection between the work he does in the band and the time he spent on Outtatown in 2002-2003 and then studying at CMU.

“Both were experiences that shaped my worldview and gave me a desire to experience new places and try new things,” says Driedger, who graduated in 2007 with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Sciences, with a concentration in Communications.

He adds that he studied and lived in residence with many creative people who were interested in making music and visual art.

“Being in a culture where my peers valued thinking outside the box really helped me develop my sense of taste and what I value in art,” he says. “Good art should help people . . . imagine a new way of thinking about the world.”

Studying communications gave Driedger an appreciation for the way media and pop culture interact, and the subtleties involved in phrasing a message so that it has a particular impact on its intended audience.

“Today We’re Believers,” Royal Canoe’s new album, is in stores Tuesday, Sept. 3.

CMU also equipped Driedger with some of the tools he uses to help promote the band. While Royal Canoe has a manager, booking agents, and record label support, each member is actively involved with every aspect of the business side of the music industry, from graphic design, to photo shoots, to booking tours, to writing press releases and updates for the band’s website.

“Gone are the days when you can be a mad genius in your basement, get discovered by a major record label, and have everyone do everything for you,” he says. “You need to have copywriters and booking agents in your band.”

While at CMU, Driedger sang in choir. Growing up in the Mennonite Church, he saw what an important part music plays in Mennonite culture.

“From a young age, I learned to value thoughtful music-making,” he says.

The intricate composition and harmony Driedger and his bandmates witnessed in church has made its way into Royal Canoe’s sound. Some of the group’s songs have a classical music feel, and at any given moment, four of the band’s six members could be singing at the same time, weaving different harmonies together behind the melody.

This fall, Royal Canoe will spend three-and-a-half months touring throughout North America and Europe in support of its second full-length album, Today We’re Believers, which hits stores on Sept. 3. Driedger is excited to see how people respond to the album, which the band worked on for the better part of three years.

“We put a lot of thought into every tone and lyric,” he says. “They’re not just throwaway [songs]. They all represent really important moments in our lives.”

Royal Canoe will celebrate the release of Today We’re Believers with two shows in Winnipeg this week: An all ages show at the Park Theatre tonight (Thursday, Aug. 22), and an 18+ show at Union Sound Hall tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 23). For details, and to hear the band’s music, visit

Events General News News Releases

Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition Features Record Number of Competitors

Winnipeg, April 3, 2013 – The eighth annual Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition at Canadian Mennonite University featured 24 competitors at its preliminary round of competition—the competition’s biggest year yet.

Peter Janzen with winners (l-r) Jillian Reimer, Catherine Richard, and Kari Chastko
Peter Janzen with winners (l-r) Jillian Reimer, Catherine Richard, and Kari Chastko

“It is incredibly exciting to see students’ strong musical abilities and the results of their many hours of musical practice and dedication this competition highlights,” says Janet Brenneman, Dean of the CMU School of Music. “The Verna Mae Janzen Music Competition is an excellent performance opportunity for our students. We are grateful for the generosity of Peter Janzen in establishing this competition.”

Out of 24 initial competitors, eight students progressed to the final round of the competition. Those students were Josiah Brubacher, Kari Chastko, Stephanie Crampton, Rebecca Klassen-Wiebe, Catherine Richard, Jami Reimer, Jillian Reimer and Nathan Sawatzky-Dyck.

Catherine Richard, a second-year pianist, was awarded $700 and first place in the competition. Kari Chastko, a forth-year voice student, placed second and received $500.  Jillian Reimer, also a second-year pianist, came in third. She was awarded $300. All finalists are to be congratulated on their excellent performance at the final competition.

About 125 people attended the Verna Mae Janzen Music competition this year, held on March 21 at the Laudamus Auditorium.  The competition is made possible by Peter Janzen of Deep River, Ontario, and named in memory of his wife, Verna Mae, who died of cancer in 1989 at age 53.

Audio Faculty interviews Sunday@CMU Radio

Dietrich Bartel – Music as a Relational Encounter

Dietrich Bartel
Dean of Music (2011)
Interview Date: September 18, 2011

In this two-part interview, Dietrich Bartel speaks with David Balzer – host of Sunday@CMU Radio, about music in human relationships and encounters with the Divine, and the practice of music therapy.

Part 1
Play/Download Here

Part 2
Play/Download Here

For more info on Dietrich Bartel, click here.

Articles Graduates 2011 Video

Alumni Profiles – Rebecca Reesor (CMU ’11)


This video features Rebecca Reesor (CMU ’11) at In Gratitude, April 16, 2011, a CMU graduation weekend event at which class members share their experiences through spoken word or musical performance. The event brings together family members, graduates, students, faculty, and staff.

Rebecca Reesor, piano
Scarbo fromGaspard de la Nuit, Maurice Ravel
Bachelor of Music, Concentrations: Performance, Music Ministry

Video Production: Laura Tait, CMU Communications & Media Student (2011)

Articles Graduates 2011 Video

Alumni Profiles – Chelsea Froese (CMU ’11)

This video features Chelsea Froese at In Gratitude, April 16, 2011, a graduation weekend event that celebrates CMU graduates by inviting class members to share their experiences through spoken word or musical performance.  The event brings together family members, graduates, students, faculty, and staff.

Chelsea Froese, mezzo-soprano with Henriette Schellenberg, piano
Una Voce Poco Fa from The Barber of Seville, Gioachino Rossini
Bachelor of Music, Concentration: Comprehensive

Video Production: Laura Tait, Communications & Media Student (2011)