The Winnipeg Philharmonic Choir is raising its voice to draw attention to our planet and the concern, love and, ultimately, hope they have for it.  



As part of their 101st season of music, the Phil wanted to present programming that made a concerted effort in looking forward rather than back.  

“We kicked around themes, and we came back to environment as something that resonates and concerns all of us,” says Winnipeg Philharmonic board member and programming co-chair Sandi Mielitz. “The question was how do we take the theme and do something that the Phil can do well that expresses the right stuff?” 

The result is a program that centers around a piece by the American composer Robert Paterson, plus music of fellow contemporary writers Stephen Chatman, Andrew Balfour, Ian Tamblyn and others.  

“A New Eaarth” – yes, with two “a’s” – is inspired by the writing of educator and environmentalist Bill McKibben.  

“McKibben’s idea was that we've got to face the fact that climate change is already occurring, and that this planet is no longer what it was,” says Mieletz. “It’s recognizable but it’s changed.” 

Hence “eaarth” rather than “earth.” 

Inspired by McKibben’s writing, composer Robert Paterson created a roughly 40-minute piece for chorus, orchestra and narrator in 2012. Shortly thereafter, he set it a second time, in a shorter, four movement version for SATB choir and piano accompanying.  

“It’s still extremely powerful music,” says Yuri Klaz, conductor of the Phil. “It still sends a very strong message and it’s absolutely beautiful how it portrays what’s going on.”  

That message is clear, according to Klaz.  

“We have to be really doing something about climate change.”  

The choir divides the four movements into separate sections and uses them as inspiration for various local environments.  

“You bring environmental down to something that means something to us here,” says Mieletz. They settled on the prairies, the boreal forest and the water.  

To provide more information, context and knowledge, the Phil has partnered with the International Institute for Sustainable Development – an organization Mieletz describes as “an environmental force.”  

Two scientists and an Indigenous knowledge keeper will share short presentations between the music, with Dr. Peter Denton serving as a guide throughout the concert.  

“A New Eaarth: Music for Spring” takes place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 at the Crescent Arts Centre.  

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