Just old enough to have witnessed the death and subsequent resurrection of vinyl, Measha Brueggergosman never really expected to see her music on a 33rmp LP, and yet, here we are.
“People give me records all the time,” she said, “because they assume — I don’t know if I give off, like, retro (vibes) — but I don’t actually own a record player! I know that based on how I’m reflected in the eyes of other people, I knew that I wanted to have an LP. I really did want to have a 33. And it’s mostly a format that I just want to contribute to. I think it sounds really good, and this repertoire in particular sounds very good on vinyl. I fully expect to get a turntable for my 40th birthday. I mean, come on!”
However, the fact that it’s available on high quality vinyl might be the least remarkable thing about ‘Songs of Freedom’.
The musical component of a larger project — which also includes a documentary, TV series, website and app — the album is a journey through her personal and family history and was kicked off in part by her episode of the CBC genealogical program Who Do You Think You Are?
“I think it has to be that at some point in your life you commit to unifying all of the different splintered fragments that you’ve been continuously giving life to into one single, forward moving movement,” Brueggergosman said of the multi-pronged project.
“I am mom, I am small business owner, I am brand, I am Christian, I am daughter — all of these things, somehow at some point have to reconcile themselves to each other and I feel like this album is the first time that I’ve really kind of seen all those elements come together.
“Doing a project like this and having a culmination of all the sacrifices they’ve made be brought into film form, album form and — for the first time — vinyl. I’ve always wanted to make a record that could serve as a symbol for how far my family had to come to enjoy these rights and freedoms that I know our society is taking completely for granted.”
Brueggergosman said that today, against a backdrop of heated, hard-line conversations on immigration, race and culture, it is important to be aware of one’s history.
“I think it becomes even more imperative,” she said, “particularly given the climate we’re currently in, to remain connected to the fact that every single person — save for our First Nations communities — are immigrants to this country. And to unilaterally declare control or ownership over any land is a slippery slope towards xenophobia, which I think we, as Canadians, have to work very hard to avoid. There are a lot of outside influences trying to force us into a very negative and exclusionary way of thinking.
“Part of releasing this album now is about presenting dialogue that pays homage to my roots with a spirit of inclusion. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the spectrum of faith, these songs are meant to serve as hope and give peace to all who listen.”
She continued, “I have recently been exposed to my past and genealogy,” she said. “I didn’t grow up knowing a lot of the things I know now. It’s a real process of discovery, and I as turn the corner to 40 it’s really amazing for me to continue to discover things about my family, and myself and my faith. And ‘Songs of Freedom’ is a real culmination of that process of discovery.”
Although the project explores her own personal back story, Brueggergosman said it is surprisingly universal.
“This album has spoken text and different dialogue between the songs to connect to the track list of the spirituals,” she explained. “(It is) the soundtrack of my own genealogy essentially. To weave through that narrative just to bring people even closer to the process and experience of freedom and liberty. Despite the fact that it sounds like my history, I’ve found that the more precise and the more specific I’ve gotten with my own experience the more universal it renders it for the listener.”
Soprano Measha Brueggergosman will be performing at Glasgow Square on February 26 as part of the Town of New Glasgow’s African Heritage Month celebrations, and she said the invitation to do so was “a real honour.” And given her own personal crash-course, and the scope of the ‘Songs of Freedom’ project, Brueggergosman is pretty well a perfect fit for the occasion.