Aaron Jensen’s musical career has taken him across the world, but his roots still run deep in Prince Albert.
Jensen will be back in his hometown with award winning acapella group Countermeasure on Nov. 9. He’s looking forward to introducing the group to a place that meant so much to him.
“It’s very exciting for me,” said Jensen, who serves as Countermeasure’s artistic director. “I am very much a product of my experiences growing up and performing in Prince Albert, and as a result, I’m really excited to share the community with these people I’ve been making music with for over a decade.”
Jensen got his start in music as part of a vocal quartet in Prince Albert. Singers included his older brother Chris, plus Mike Langlois and Ian Dickson, two well-known members of Prince Albert’s artistic scene.
Since then, Jensen has become a significant force in Canada’s music industry. Juno and Grammy award-winning artists like Randy Brecker, Mariah Carey, Natalie MacMaster, and Dame Evelyn Glennie have recorded his songs, and choirs and symphonies across the world have performed his compositions.
Most recently, he composed pieces for the nine-time Emmy award-winning television series Schitt’s Creek.
“I grew up in Prince Albert and spent all of my free time performing in plays, musicals, and festivals,” Jensen remembered. “These experiences were the foundation for my career in the arts. I cherish those memories and friendships. I can’t wait to come home and reconnect with my old community.”
Jensen and Countermeasure are fresh off a trip to Vancouver where they performed at SING!, the Vancouver International Vocal Arts Festival. The Nov. Prince Albert is their first of two Saskatchewan music dates. Other group members say they’re eager to see the place Jensen has spoken of so often.
“I have never been to Prince Albert, although I’ve heard many wonderful stories of Aaron growing and becoming a professional musician through the stewardship and opportunity presented to him in Prince Albert,” said J-M Erlendson, a coval percussionist and Countermeasures’ GM. “He speaks very highly of it, and I’m excited to come hear more about the city first hand rather than just hear about the story.”
Countermeasure will play a mix of contemporary and traditional music, along with a few of Jensen’s original compositions. The list includes songs made famous by Britney Spears and Barry Manilow, and composed by Tchaikovsky.
Both Jensen and Erlendson said there’s something freeing about acapella music that promotes experimentation and allows different styles to thrive.
“There’s something very special about vocal music,” Jensen said. “Human voices are very personal…. It allows for a very specific kind of connection with an audience (and) a specific type of storytelling.”
“I think there is something incredibly human about acapella,” Erlendson added. “We strive to make really interesting, rich music that comes from all types of genres and styles, and the one thing that unites everything we do is the human element. There’s nothing that sounds like a person, except for a person.”
Jensen’s original compositions draw on a variety of subjects. His songs touch on subjects as familiar as stepping off the plane in a new country, to more intimate topics based on his own life or the lives of Countermeasure singers.
Regardless of where the inspiration comes from, Jensen and Erlendson said the goal is to connect with their audience through music.
“It’s great to hear somebody say, ‘my goodness, I’ve never heard something like that. I didn’t know human voices could sound like that,’” Erlendson said. “That’s really exciting, but the thing that’s more important is (hearing), ‘I connected in a special way with that performance—something I’ve never felt before. It’s like I was a part of it.’ That’s acapella to me.”
Following their performances in Prince Albert and Saskatoon, Countermeasure will get back in the studio to start recording new music. The group is in the process of releasing a new album where they worked with a symphony orchestra, but their next project will see them partner with individual musicians for a single piece.
This will mark the second time Countermeasure has recorded music with individual musicians. Jensen said they enjoyed it so much they decided to do it again.
“The last project was such a delight,” he said. “Collaboration is so vital to our group…. Each artist that we brought in allowed me to think of what would best showcase this artist, and in some cases, almost treat their solo instrument as a member of a choir.”
Once they’re finished recording, Countermeasure will be back on the road for a tour in Japan. It will be their third time performing in the country.
Countermeasure will perform at the Union Centre in Prince Albert on Thursday, Nov. 9. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at countermeasuremusic.tickit.ca.