Erica Wiebe blends in beautifully and stands out wonderfully
2020 DFOM graduate Erica Wiebe has put her signature on many DFOM ensembles.
NOTE: We in the Desautels Faculty of Music are incredibly proud of our students. While COVID-19 is sidelining in-person commencement ceremonies around the globe, we want to find alternate ways to celebrate our graduates and give them the recognition due to them. Until we can gather together to properly applaud the years of study and practice that have led to this milestone, please join us in congratulating our 2020 Desautels Faculty of Music graduates.
Today we celebrate Erica Wiebe!
When 2020 DFOM graduate Erica Wiebe was 17 years old, she went to the Brandon Jazz Festival to enjoy some music. She didn’t count on the experience changing the course of her future.
“I heard a Finnish vocal ensemble perform, and fell in love with singing with others,” the contralto says of that day.
“I loved the sound and I loved performing close harmonies with other passionate musicians. I didn’t know what a career in music would look like, but I knew I wanted to sing, conduct, or perform in some way,” she says.
It stuck with her. Though Wiebe had been taking voice lessons casually since she was 8, she became very serious about singing that year, and shortly thereafter successfully auditioned for the Desautels Faculty of Music.
Hooked on ensembles
“I did a whole bunch of ensembles before I was in the DFOM,” she says.
However, after beginning university, she really amplified the ensemble work in which she was participating. In the faculty, Wiebe, the recipient of a Marcel A. Desautels scholarship and the Walter Klymkiw scholarship, performed with the UM Musical Theatre Ensemble, the UM Women’s Chorus, the UM Opera Theatre Ensemble, the University Singers, and the Cantata Singers. With that last group, performed a solo in fellow 2020 graduate Avonlea Armstrong-Green’s conducting credit recital, and in 2019, Wiebe was among the selection of University Singers who performed on television with Prairie Voices.
“That was a really neat experience!” she says.
She has also performed as a guest soloist at Westminster United Church, and regularly put on house concerts in German Lieder and English Art Song.
As if all those university commitments weren’t enough, Wiebe, of Steinbach, Manitoba, also performed with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society of Winnipeg, the Steinbach Vespers Chorus, various choirs in the Eastman Choral Association, and the Manitoba Underground Opera, where she played a novizie (novice) in the company’s 2017 production of Suor Angelica, Puccini’s tragic opera that examines the lives of nuns.
But not all of the characters she’s played have been tragic ones.
Wiebe shone in her hilarious turn as the physical embodiment of “Public Opinion” in the UM Opera Theatre’s 2020 production of a scene from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld. Singing in French, with dialogue in English, Wiebe played her straight-man role opposite Kyle Briscoe’s caddish Orpheus, whose wife Euridice has gone missing. However, without Public Opinion’s constant guidance, Orpheus isn’t actually able to summon up much concern about his marital loss.
The two burst onto the scene through the audience, playing their respective antic roles to great effect, and prompting audience laughter with their back-and-forth interactions.
“I loved performing Orpheus in the Underworld,” Wiebe says of her favourite role in the DFOM, noting that she and Briscoe had a lot of fun with the roles.
“At least, I had fun with him!” she says.
“He was most likely annoyed with my by the end of the run…I was a mean character,” jokes Wiebe.
Perhaps in a future performance of the production, Wiebe, an accomplished archer, will get to showcase her archery skills as Diana the huntress!
“It used to be that the coolest thing about me was my archery skills,” says Wiebe.
“Now the coolest thing about me is that I can sing low!”
Another favourite pieces include Eva Holm Foosnæs’ “The Black Monkey,” which Wiebe sang with the University Singers in 2019.
Due to the disruption caused by COVID-19, the Desautels Faculty of Music had to cancel all of its remaining events for the 2019-2020 season. In addition to final ensemble performances, about 40 student credit recitals were cancelled, including those of graduating students, whose final credit recitals serve as a sort of capstone project showcasing what they have learned throughout their studies. Unfortunately, Wiebe’s credit recital was among the cancelled.
For her credit recital Wiebe had chosen a varied selection of music to highlight her abilities, and would have performed the following pieces:
“Sweeter than Roses,” “Bess of Bedlam,” and “An Evening Hymn,” by Henry Purcell; Handel’s “Va tacito e nascosto”; “Die junge nonne” and “Das zügenglöcklein,” by Schubert, Manuel de Falla’s set of seven Spanish pieces titled “Siete canciones populares españolas,” and Jake Heggie’s “Paper Wings.” Wiebe had already performed another Heggie piece, “A Route to the Sky,” in a faculty masterclass.
“I was very pleased with how it sounded!” she says.
The final piece in Wiebe’s credit recital program was to be a piece written by fellow 2020 DFOM graduate Rebeka Schroeder, called “As a Cloud Would.”
When it comes to mentors, Wiebe says that the size of the faculty has been a major benefit.
“Oh, my goodness, everyone is a faculty mentor in such a small faculty!” she says.
“We are the sum of our influences and I’ve been influenced by so many wonderful singers and conductors, both still in the faculty and alumni. Elroy Friesen is, like, my hero. He’s always been patient with my constant questions and has just been a big inspiration to me in both his character and his talent,” she says of her conductor in And Laura Loewen walked with me through some really difficult stuff. She’s such a wonderful human being and performer,” she says.
“Erica has been an enthusiastic ‘choir nerd’ from the day I met her at her first choir audition,” says Elroy Friesen, DFOM associate professor of conducting and director of the University Singers and Women’s Chorus.
“She is SO passionate about choral music – both the singing and the conducting. She is such a talented and dedicated choir member,” he adds.
“I’m very happy to tell you how wonderful Erica is!” exclaims Laura Loewen, incoming associate dean of undergraduate programs and associate professor of collaborative piano.
“She has been a student in my Diction classes for the last few years. She is an amazingly strong person who is a passionate and thoughtful musician. Her presence in my classes was always wonderful,” she says.
“She is an engaged student whose comments and observations were clearly generated by her deep love of the music we were discussing. She works hard, but always with good humour and enthusiasm. I am going to miss her at school!” adds Loewen.
Advice for incoming DFOM students
Wiebe, who will be pursuing a two-year after-degree in senior years’ choral education, has the following advice for new students:
“It’s okay to cry. It means you care,” she says.
“It’s okay to feel discouraged, as it means you’re invested in your music. There will be lots of down days, but some really great days, too!”
Congratulations, Erica! We are incredibly proud of you, and we look forward to watching you perform…probably in every ensemble in the province!