Scott Reimer carries the future of Manitoba music in his heart
2020 DFOM graduate Scott Reimer performs and conducts beautifully and prolifically
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 Scott Reimer!
Scott Reimer has never known a day without music. The son of musically-gifted parents, he has spent his life surrounded by musicians, listening to them perform in church, in bands, and at family get-togethers.
“I grew up in a family that sang together. My parents have always been performing musicians, putting on concerts around southern Manitoba and leading music in church with my mom at the piano and my dad playing guitar or bass,” Reimer says.
My dad also had a relatively popular Plautdietsch band called Heischraitje en Willa Honijch that performed around the Manitoba Mennonite community and beyond, so I grew up watching my parents on stage,” he says.
“To this day, my parents are still going to care homes to sing with residents, with guitar or piano in tow,” he says of their calling to share the joy of song.
Reimer himself has always been an avid performer.
“Throughout my schooling, I was always involved in every musical ensemble available and I kept on finding choirs to sing with after high school,” he says.
He was a member of the National Youth Choir, and, in his work with the World Youth Choir, he was even selected to serve as a section leader for the ensemble.
For Reimer, music was like another family member, so entrenched in his life that it would be impossible to imagine its absence.
“Each family gathering saw the entire extended family sitting around the piano singing hymns or carols together, so making music together has always been a part of my fabric,” he says.
So it might come as a surprise that someone so devoted to music originally sought another career path.
“I had become a science teacher with a B.Sc. in biology and after one year of teaching high school science, I decided that I really wanted to be teaching music, instead,” he says of his decision to return to university to follow a different path.
“Until that point, choir was just something I did out of passion, and I suddenly realized that I wanted it to be more of a daily career activity. Since then, I have taught several years of high school choir and band,” he says.
Even before arriving in the faculty, Reimer was already conducting and performing at an elite level, participating in the Vancouver Chamber Choir’s Conductor Symposium in 2013, and performing with Measha Brueggergosman in Kurt Weill’s satirical Seven Deadly Sins.
In the faculty and beyond
After a successful audition for the Desautels Faculty of Music, Reimer continued to immerse himself in everything music.
Now, instead of having to search out choral ensembles to perform with, he had full access to multiple ensembles within the faculty, ultimately singing with the University Singers and Cantata Singers, with a guest appearance in the Women’s Chorus when the group performed Holst’s The Planets with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. For fun, he even put together an ensemble of DFOM students in his first year specifically to perform a Halloween-themed concert for the faculty.
“I really enjoyed a set of short pieces called and Einstein said that we performed with Cantata Singers and there were so many great pieces that we performed with University Singers,” he says of his ensemble performances.
“Notable favourites were Durufle’s ‘Requiem,’ my arrangement of the Christmas carol ‘Still Still Still,’ and this awesome Nordic piece, ‘Biegga Luohte,’” Reimer says.
Ever the overachiever, Reimer, who received the Henry Engbrecht Fellowship for both years of his program, also continued to perform with professional groups around the city, most notably with Canzona, Camerata Nova, and Polycoro.
His engagements don’t end at the city limits, though.
Juggling so many performances and ensembles would be a remarkable achievement in itself, but Reimer somehow also completed the rigorous academic demands of the Master of Music program with gusto, and now, two years later, he has earned his Master of Music in Choral Conducting.
“Really, I received so much support and guidance from so many faculty members over the past few years!” says Reimer of the mentors in the faculty who have guided him.
A couple of torch bearers stand out, though.
“I would like to thank Elroy Friesen who has always believed in me and has gone so many extra miles in order to help me succeed,” Reimer says of Friesen, who is an associate professor of music in the DFOM, its area head for conducting, and the director of the Cantata Singers and University Singers ensembles.
“He has been a mentor of mine for a long time. He is such an incredible and influential musician in the Manitoba choral community and beyond, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to study with him,” says Reimer.
“I appreciated gaining insight on how to communicate choral music with so much clarity, authenticity, and commitment to the text, as well as how to program a meaningful, effective choral program. He knows how to tap into a choir’s full potential with his methodology and he has always been so supportive in my journey. I can’t thank him enough,” adds Reimer.
“Scott is a very talented choral conductor,” says Friesen.
“His many years of singing in choirs across Canada and around the world, paired with his innate musicality, instincts and hard work, make him an outstanding conductor. He is a ‘singer’s conductor.’ He understands the choral and vocal instruments well, resulting in a gesture that is so organic and grounded making him easy to sing for,” Friesen says.
“Most importantly, Scott values the human connections within the choral community. He treats his singers and colleagues with such respect and joy. People want to sing in his choirs!” says Friesen enthusiastically.
“I have also appreciated working with the incredibly genuine and generous Mel Braun who has augmented my understanding of musical interpretation and effective programming,” he says.
“I owe the vast majority of my vocal technique knowledge to both him and Catherine Robbins with whom I studied choral and vocal techniques several years prior to this degree,” says Reimer.
“Scott is an extraordinarily gifted singer, choral musician, conductor, and composer,” says Mel Braun, area head for the DFOM voice department, who also works with Reimer in Camerata Nova.
“We were lucky to have such a willing learner with us over the last few years. His openness to new ideas, bolstered by a keen mind and fantastic ears, have helped him synthesize an approach to choral community and music making which will make him a leader in the greater choral community for years to come. Scott loves people and they love singing for him. What a pleasure to share part of the journey with him!” adds Braun.
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. Fortunately, Reimer’s recital occurred prior to the pandemic’s arrival, and he pulled out all of the stops to put together an ensemble of musicians to conduct.
Masters’ students conduct two recitals in their time in the faculty, and for Reimer, both served as monuments to the musical relationships throughout his life. With his endless connections in the choral and instrumental communities, Reimer enlisted members of his many ensembles to perform as a new ensemble, the Pro Bene Masters Chorale, which he formed himself.
“My final conducting recital was incredible,” he says of the experience, which marked his proudest moment in his time in the faculty.
“The finale was an abbreviated performance of the fourth (choral) movement from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 that I adapted myself. I recruited a chamber orchestra of professional instrumentalists, complete with brass and timpani,” he says.
“To beef up the choral sound, I organized an additional chorus of community members to join us onstage to sing some of the big moments. It was a huge feat and I was so excited that it came together so well in performance!” Reimer says.
Recitals can be a stressful thing, so to have so many of his friends and colleagues looking him straight in the eye while giving their best performances must have been a grounding experience, and a reminder that no matter what, they would always be there for him.
“Some of the pieces that were particularly special from my recital concerts were Allegri’s ‘Miserere mei,’ the premiere of my own compositions, ‘I Carry Your Heart’ and ‘Barter,’ and Bach’s two-choir motet, ‘Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,’ which we performed with double-reed and string quartets playing from within the choir and Lottie Enns-Braun on organ,” he says of his previous conducting performances.
“With the themes of my recital programs centring around human perseverance, we performed many great works from Beethoven, Whitacre, Hogan, Schumann, Handel, Mendelssohn, Vaughan Williams, Willan, and many others,” he says.
Reimer’s original compositions have already garnered him praise. In 2013, he was crowned the winner of the Manitoba Choral Association’s inaugural Frances Seaton Choral Composition Competition, for his work “Humpty’s Revenge.”
Reimer’s beautiful “I Carry Your Heart,” with lyrics from the e.e. cummings poem “I Carry Your Heart with Me,” is a showstopper. Set to Reimer’s beautiful music, the poem becomes a soaring, ethereal prayer, which begins as a whisper and rises to an anthemic, joyful testament to love. The perfect harmony alone is enough to make one weep. Fortunately for all of us, Reimer filmed that performance, which can be seen on his YouTube channel HERE.
As he departs the faculty, Reimer has some advice for incoming DFOM students:
“Work hard and manage your time well so that you can fill your days with as many opportunities as possible while you are here,” he says.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help because this faculty is full of amazing musician-teachers who want to see you succeed,” he adds.
As for the future, Reimer is already well-positioned to continue his musical success story.
“I will continue to perform in a number of professional choirs as a singer and conductor, and I will be resuming my pursuit as a high school music educator here in Winnipeg,” he says.
With his prolific performance schedule, we know we will be hearing Scott Reimer’s gorgeous voice and music echo across the Prairies for years. Any student would be lucky to have this talented and passionate musician teach and guide them on their musical journey, and we can’t wait to hear the musical results of all of the students he ultimately inspires and coaches. It is incredibly clear that he will be central to Manitoba’s musical future!