The Calgary Philharmonic is excited to be showcasing a new work by Alberta singer-songwriters Ellen Doty and Wyatt C. Louis during Holiday Favourites with the Calgary Phil, a virtual concert premiering Saturday 12 December at calgaryphil.com. The song, Mittens, was written for the fourth annual Holiday Giveback Campaign — a collaboration with local businesses Monogram Coffee and Made by Marcus ice cream — launching 1 December in support The Mustard Seed.
We asked Ellen, Wyatt, Jeremy of Monogram, and Marcus of Made by Marcus, to tell us more about the collaboration and share some of their own holiday traditions.
This is the fourth annual Holiday Giveback Campaign — what inspired it?
Ellen: As an artist, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in cafés, using them as my mobile office whether I’m home or on the road. I was actually just hanging out at Monogram café in Altadore, working on my laptop, and Jeremy, the co-owner of Monogram, happened to be there. We had been talking about collaborating at some point, so I pitched the idea of a charity campaign. Jeremy loved it, and here we are four years later!
Have you always been a coffee lover?
Ellen: Before Monogram Coffee, I was actually a tea drinker! Jeremy served me my very first coffee at one of the Monogram cafés, and I’ve been drinking coffee regularly ever since. Pretty neat!
Why did you choose to support The Mustard Seed?
Ellen: We love the work that The Mustard Seed is doing to eliminate homelessness and reduce poverty by providing basic needs (food, clothing, and hygiene items), education, employment programs, health and wellness services, housing, and emergency shelter. They are working to not only provide emergency services, but also to help folks transition permanently out of homelessness and poverty with wrap-around supports.
Monogram was on board with this campaign from the start — why is it important to you?
Jeremy: We started this campaign because we believe coffee should inspire warmth, especially to those that need it the most. Our purpose at Monogram is to positively impact people’s lives through coffee, and this campaign is a wonderful way to show that. It’s also a fun way to bring coffee, the arts, and our community together.
What is special about Mittens coffee?
The coffee is inspired by Ellen’s song — we picked a coffee from Guatemala with smooth and rich notes of chocolate, caramel, and nuts. Whether it’s sipped next to the fire, or on a cold snowy day, a freshly brewed cup of Mittens is meant to invoke that cozy, holiday feeling.
This is the second year Made by Marcus has been part of the campaign — how did that come about?
Marcus: We have always had a good relationship with Monogram Coffee, as we share the same belief in supporting the community. Christmas has always been about giving back, so when Jeremy from Monogram asked me about this campaign, I was in!! Any part we can do to help someone less fortunate during the holidays means a lot to me.
What is the story behind this year’s ice cream flavour?
This year we made a Monogram Espresso & Speculoos Cookie ice cream. We steeped Monogram espresso beans in the ice cream base and, with our housemade speculoos, made a speculoos cookie butter and rippled it throughout the ice cream. The combination of coffee, spices, and cookies is the best pairing for ice cream by the fire.
Each year you’ve released a new single as part of this campaign – tell us about “Mittens” and your collaboration.
Ellen: I had the absolute pleasure of writing this year’s tune with Wyatt C. Louis — a super talented Calgary-based artist. The song was inspired by memories that Wyatt and I shared about our own holiday traditions, like Wyatt playing Yahtzee with his Grandma, or his dog Vern running around the kitchen as everyone gathers together. The message is especially pertinent with COVID this year, as it talks about missing a loved one around the holidays.
Wyatt: Through the goodness of others, my name got passed around! Ellen and I connected online, and she said I’d be a great fit to help her with the campaign this year. And I wanted to do something different for the holidays.
I’m so glad I got the opportunity to co-write and perform with Ellen. It was also a dream to collaborate with Monogram and Made by Marcus!
What is exciting about playing with orchestra musicians?
Ellen: It was an absolute pleasure to play with the Calgary Phil. I think time slowed down for me during the rehearsals and recording. The attention to detail was so effortless. And the arrangement by Andrew Ball took our song to another world.
What is one of your favourite holiday traditions?
Ellen: Making homemade eggnog with my Grandpa’s recipe. He passed away a few years ago, but we still make the eggnog each year and cheers to him.
Wyatt: My fiancée and I like to visit both of our families. Wear matching pjs with our dog, Vernon. And watch the classics such as Elf, Home Alone, and the Grinch. Recently, it’s been baking and crafts.
Jeremy: Putting up the tree with my wife, taking time to place each ornament, with the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack playing in the background.
Marcus: Having a big, Swedish dinner on Christmas Eve with family with honeyed ham, braised red cabbage, anchovies-scallop potatoes, and Swedish meatballs.
Find out how you can support the Holiday Giveback Campaign here and register for our free virtual Holiday Favourites with the Calgary Phil concert here.
By Katrina Nethercott