Photography by Mat Dunlap
Measha Brueggergosman's voice is otherworldly, but her roots are firmly planted in the Maritimes. Born and raised in Fredericton, she still thinks of the city as home—and that's where you'll find her when she's not performing.
On a Wednesday night In Fredericton, you can likely find Measha Brueggergosman with her braids up and hat on, drink in hand, catching a reggae set at The Capital Complex, a live music venue. Saturday mornings are reserved for the Fredericton Boyce Farmers Market, where there's a buffet of delicacies that mirrors Canada's multicultural flavour: Dutch sausages, Indian samosas, Greek souvlaki, German pastries and, let's not forget, the cheese counter. The next day, she'll be front row of her brother Neville's parish in nearby Maugerville to attend his 5:17 p.m. service (the start time is a nod to 2 Corinthians 5:17, a Bible verse about recreating yourself).
It was between the pews of her church and her grade school's music room that Measha, now widely considered one of the foremost sopranos of her generation, found her voice. By her teenage years, she had blossomed into the city performer, singing at every function, from bar mitzvahs to funerals. "Fredericton is a very musical community. I enjoyed a lot of early music education, and it's what set me on the path that I'd eventually take. I had access to many performance opportunities in the way only a small town could afford, which nurtured my desire to entertain," she says.
Measha has always felt a deep connection to her hometown, but she discovered more about her East Coast roots during the filming of Who Do You Think You Are?, the hit genealogy docuseries. She traced her family's history from slavery in Revolution-era America to their eventual freedom in Eastern Canada. She also learned that her ancestors hailed from Cameroon; they descend from the Bassa, a Bantu-speaking tribe known for its musical prowess. This revelation, and her family's past, is a recurring theme in Measha's new and most personal Christmas album, Songs of Freedom, a collection of traditional and spiritual songs that have been given modern arrangements.
Now, staring out her window, she spies the lobster pound bustling with activity before it closes for the year. She, too, is hard at work—writing her memoir, which she wants to finish before blowing out the candles on her 40th birthday cake this June. There's a lot to cover: her ancestral ties to the East Coast; her childhood in Fredericton; her journey to operatic stardom; her stories of pain and loss (she underwent emergency open-heart surgery at 32 and, only a few years later, suffered more heartache with the loss of her unborn twins). She knows she still has years of life to experience, but she wants to share what she's learned—up to this point, at least.
For now, though, Measha is relishing the East Coast scene. She'll soon be embarking on another international tour, but until then, she'll be in a tiny fishing village outside of Fredericton, where her dad has owned land for years, writing, eating lobster every day until season's end and soaking in the sights, sounds and views of home. "I like that my home base is here," she says.
Three insider tips from star soprano and Fredericton native Measha Brueggergosman.
1. Check out the music scene
"Lamèque is an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, just off the Acadian Peninsula. They have a music festival, the Lamèque International Baroque Music Festival, that's a destination for the world's music experts. People go because it's this utopia. It's hard to get to, but it's so worth it."
2. Eat at The Dip
"I would argue that the best 24-hour restaurant in the Maritimes is The Diplomat—which everyone calls The Dip—in Fredericton. It looks like a cross between the set of 9 1/2 Weeks and your stylish grandmother's living room. I get the special fried rice and bring it home to my parents."
3. Grab a coffee at Jonnie Java Roasters
"You have to go downtown to Jonnie's for the coffee. They were the first to roast their own beans, like 10 years ago. I would say they're the best at it."