Exploring musical roots with meagan&amy

Inspiration can come from many sources, and centuries of music history are often reflected in the music composed today. The duo of meagan&amy, consisting of violinist Amy Hillis and pianist Meagan Milatz, explores that idea, featuring contemporary Canadian composers and the music that inspired them, on a pan-Canadian tour. The Yorkton stop of the tour, presented as part of the Yorkton Arts Council’s Stars for Saskatchewan series, takes place on Dec. 2.

This tour is a total of fifty concerts, going to every province and territory, organized in partnership between three organizations, Prairie Debut, Jeunesses Musicales Canada and Debut Atlantic. They are honored to be able to travel the country, and Hillis believes it’s important to get to as many places as they can with it.

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“This music is for all parts of Canada. Even if you grew up somewhere that classical music is not part of your every day life, the fact that these are composers who live in Canada who wrote this music for their fellow Canadians... I think that as Canadians we share experiences and we share values, and the music actually can represent that.”

The show is unique, showing contemporary composers and their inspirations. Hillis explained that they started by picking three contemporary pieces that they believe every Canadian should hear. From there, they went back, picking pieces from more traditional composers like Debussey and Mozart, composers that the Canadians were inspired by.

“It gives them a context for their type of style and sound. It also shows how the Canadian composers went in a different direction.”

It began with the idea of what they wanted to take across Canada, Milatz said, and they wanted to give people an entry point for newer works. If they connect it to a more familiar composer, like Mozart, they could establish a connection between new and old, said Milatz.

The project also includes an album, Roots, which will be available on the tour. Work began two years ago, and it was released in September of this year. The title of the album came from showing the roots of the composers, but also their own roots as musicians. It’s an extension of the live performance, explained Milatz.

“It’s a privilege to be able to make a disc that represents the music we feel should be listened to all the time.”

The Saskatchewan leg of the tour is special for a number of reasons. First, the province is where one of the composers, David McIntyre, lives and works. Hillis said that he has told them that his piece shows his heritage. They’re glad to be able to play his pieces in the province, including for McIntyre himself.

“He thinks that his piece would be quite different if he lived elsewhere.”

It’s also a homecoming for both Hillis and Milatz. Hillis is from Regina, and has played with the Regina symphony, while Milatz grew up on a farm near Stoughton. Both women now live and work in Montreal, but the tour is going back to their own roots.

“There’s something about driving on the prairies. It’s so beautiful and you don’t get the scenery and sense of space and openness, and the blue skies you see, you don’t get that in Quebec or the Maritimes. It’s unique to Saskatchewan and it really feels like home,” Milatz said.

To learn more, visit www.meaganandamy.com or yorktonarts.ca.

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