“… more than an exceptionally gifted and ambitious young cellist making his mark. The infectious joy, thoughtfulness, and integrity that he works so hard to cultivate in his playing is merely an extension of his intrinsic social curiosity.”
– Principal Yuri Hooker of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on David Liam Roberts (Winnipeg Free Press)
Cellist David Liam Roberts and pianist Godwin Friesen have much in common, not least of which is their roots in the Prairie region. Both first experienced the thrill of performance as part of a musical family. Friesen grew up in Edmonton and Saskatoon, while Roberts grew up in Winnipeg. As the Prairie Sons, the two are dedicated to innovative programming and unforgettably engaging performances.
PHOTO | Shane Gray
David Liam Roberts
Described as a “deeply thoughtful and soft-spoken artist” by the Winnipeg Free Press, David Liam Roberts is an award-winning cellist, an athlete, and a passionate music educator with a bent toward philosophy. Originally from Winnipeg, he began his musical career at age five busking with his older siblings. Great-grandson to an amateur Métis fiddle player on his father’s side and descended from a long line of German Lutheran church organists on his mother’s, he is increasingly interested in exploring his family’s roots and Métis heritage.
With a sensitive, soulful performance style, David Liam has garnered considerable recognition in the Canadian music world. Along with being named to CBC Radio’s list of top young musicians, he was awarded First Prize at the 2022 biennial WMC McLellan Competition, won the prestigious Canada Council for the Arts’ Michael Measures First Prize, and was the 2021-22 recipient of the Hnatyshyn Foundation’s Developing Artist Grant for Canadian instrumentalists.
Recent career highlights include an engagement as a Debut Atlantic touring artist alongside pianist LaLa Lee, concerts in Winnipeg, Halifax and Toronto, and an appearance at the International Musicians Seminar at Prussia Cove, UK.
For many years, David Liam led the Back to Bach Project, a global non-profit organization which instills a love of music in children around the world. He continues to support this endeavour as a Back to Bach soloist.
David Liam is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma as a student of Hans Jørgen Jensen and Andrés Díaz at Toronto’s Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music, where he holds the prestigious Temerty Fellowship. His studies have taken to him to Poland, Slovenia and Italy, and some of his most formative mentors have been Yuri Hooker, Bryan Epperson and Joseph Johnson. He also served as principal cellist of the Royal Conservatory Orchestra and the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
Roberts carries a piece of home with him in his instrument, a cello made by Garth Lee, a luthier from the Winnipeg area. It was created for him in the style and dimensions of Francesco Rugeri (c. 1659) while his bow was crafted by Canadian maker, Eric Gagné.
PHOTO | Meghan Hayhoe
An impassioned pianist who infuses his performances with emotion, Godwin seems to embody every note he plays, and his sentiment resonates in his listeners. In 2022, he took first place at the OSM Competition (and received the prize for best interpretation of the imposed Canadian work). He also placed first in piano at the National Music Festival (2015), won the Glenn Gould School Concert Competition (2019), and took second place at the PianoArts North American Competition in Milwaukee (2022).
Godwin frequently returns to play with the very first ensemble to which he belonged – he grew up touring music with his parents and five siblings in the Friesen Family Band. The musical development he experienced during several Canadian tours and three album recordings was profound, and he began formal piano studies around age seven.
In an age of artificial intelligence, Godwin speaks of what makes live music enthralling – embodying the emotion of the music, communicating with and without words, and the dedicated years of effort it takes to entice a range of sounds from an instrument. He has made a promising start as a composer, and toured a narrated concert called “Songs of the Settlers” which told the history of Milwaukee through music in an artist residency with PianoArts.
Godwin holds a bachelor’s degree and an Artist Diploma from The Glenn Gould School, where he studied with John O’Conor from 2016 to 2022. He is now pursuing a master’s degree at the Université de Montréal as a student of Jean Saulnier and Henry Kramer.
PHOTO CREDIT | Danylo Bobyk
“[Godwin Friesen] doesn’t play the piano so much as he feels it.”
– Saskatoon Star Phoenix