There’s a new chamber group in town, and it has some familiar faces! Several local musicians (many from our own Orchestra) have teamed up with the CPO’s former Associate Conductor Mélanie Léonard to form the Wild West New Music Ensemble, Calgary’s newest professional chamber music ensemble.

This exciting new group will be making its official debut in the fall. We chatted with Mélanie Léonard, who serves as the ensemble’s Music Director, to get all the details!

What is the Wild West New Music Ensemble?

The Wild West New Music Ensemble is Calgary’s newest professional chamber music ensemble. Specializing in the contemporary classical repertoire, this ensemble is comprised of some of Calgary’s top professional musicians, most of whom occupy positions in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

Wild West’s mandate is to promote and perform innovative repertoire of the 20th and 21st Centuries, as well as the works of contemporary Canadian composers. As Calgary’s first professional ensemble of its size to focus on the contemporary canon, Wild West fills an important role in developing Calgary’s musical scene by contributing to its cultural richness, vibrancy, and artistic innovation. Wild West also aims to entertain and educate an expansive and varied audience by introducing them to music they may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience. Through atypical concert settings, its flexible size and playful approach, Wild West is sure to intrigue, entice and entertain even the most skeptical of listeners.

What events are you presenting? Where can people see this group?

We have two concerts in our first season. The first one is on September 7 at 2pm at Memorial Park. It is a free outdoor event. We are very excited and proud to launch our inaugural season as part of Honens 2014 International Festival of Piano. More details on the event are available here:

Our second concert is animal themed. We will be performing Luciano Berio’s Opus Number Zoo and a chamber ensemble version of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. The work by Berio is for wind quintet and is very fun. The musicians are also acting as narrators. We are looking at the possibility of presenting it at the Calgary Zoo on May 16 2015. This concert will be a part of the Calgary New Music Festival to launch in May 2015, of which I am the Artistic Director as well. We will have more details about this event in the near future.

What do you hope people will get out of your performances?

I think our concerts will be an uplifting experience. A lot of people love classical music and this is what we are offering them, only it is from a period they might not be the most familiar with. In contemporary music, there is everything from the very intellectual, conceptual music to the lyrical and post romantic aesthetic. I don’t love everything that’s been written and I want people to know that they don’t have to love it all either, but I think that they can make beautiful discoveries with us and find new favourites amidst our repertoire. It’s about being open to surprising yourself and listening to something, perhaps for the first time, with enthusiastic ears. I am very passionate about taking the audience into new territories.

Which pieces are you excited about performing in your first Season?

All of them! In our first concert, we have Ravel and Elgar that are staples, but also Hindemith. It’s a very high-energy piece that is exciting for us to perform, but also for the audience to hear performed live. In our second concert, we have, of course, Prokofiev’s beloved Peter and the Wolf, but also Opus Number Zoo by Luciano Berio, which is a very interesting, humorous and approachable work from one of the greatest composers of the 20th century.

What are some other things you can tell us about this ensemble?

  1. All of the musicians play with the CPO. Since we are smaller in size and focus on a different repertoire, it allows them to play repertoire that they might not get to play otherwise.
  1. Our home base is at the National Music Centre’s facility on 11th Avenue. In the future, we will move with them to their new facility in Calgary’s East Village, currently under construction and set to open in 2016. We are very grateful and excited about this partnership with one of Calgary’s great music organizations.
  1. Our home concert venue is at the NMC, but as part of our vision, we also want to bring music to unusual places and reach out to different audiences. The Calgary Zoo is one example.
  1. Another one of our partners is Paul Hardy Design. Paul Hardy and I pursued a partnership after my years with the CPO. It’s wonderful to have had the chance to collaborate with him. I bring the music and he definitely brings the style, the edge and the elegance. It’s a great association.
  1. Our entire new season will be ticket-free. We want as many people to come and discover what we have to offer and share the beginning of this new adventure with us.

Check out more information on the Wild West New Music Ensemble, including biographies of its musicians, at