Join us at 12pm noon for our free, concert series showcasing Canada's young talent!
The Inuksuk High School Concert Band, under the direction of Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis, plays a variety of musical styles such as, classical, jazz, big-band, and contemporary concert band music. While the band program is oriented toward the teaching and learning of these musical styles, the rich tradition of the music of Nunavut is a legacy which is honoured in its repertoire. Members of the concert band often accompany the Inuksuk Drum Dancers, giving an innovative and different sound to traditional and contemporary Inuit music.
Inuksuk Drum Dancers
The Inuksuk Drum Dancers, under the direction of Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis, perform traditional Inuit music, which includes throat singing and drum dancing, and contemporary Inuit songs from across Nunavut. Throat singing—historically a game that was played by women during the long and cold hours spent in the iglu—involves the creation of sounds deep within the throat that usually emulate the sounds of nature, such as the wind, birds, dog teams, snow crunching, polar bears, wolves, and mosquitoes. Drum dancing includes drumming, dancing, and singing songs that carry stories of personal experiences, humourous anecdotes, and traditional Inuit morals and values. At times, the group veers away from tradition to create innovative musical renditions that incorporate traditional and contemporary musical styles.
The Inuksuk Drum Dancers represent Inuit culture from rural Nunavut within the Inuit-Anglo-Franco urban context of Iqaluit. The group chooses to present traditional symbols of their Inuit culture with aspirations of making it visible to a wider audience. Through this commitment to presenting Inuit culture in their performances, the choir members strive to reinforce Inuit traditions and values and advocate the use of Inuktitut.
The Inuksuk Drum Dancers are in constant demand for performances. Each year the group performs regularly at a variety of events including; the opening and closing ceremonies of Toonik Tyme and the Alianait Arts Festival; as an opening act for visiting artists, such as Paul K. Irksak, Elisapie Isaac, Beatrice Deer, Hey Rosetta, and J.P. Cormier; territorial conferences; swearing-in ceremonies; Canada Day events; CBC television and radio shows; Music Monday; federal government ceremonies and conferences; government and office celebrations; the Annual Iqaluit Music Society Choral Festival; and many more. Several members of the Inuksuk Drum Dancers represented Nunavut at the Canada Summer Games held in Prince Edward Island in 2009, the Arctic Winter Games in 2010 (Grand Prairie, Alberta) and 2012 (Whitehorse, Yukon), the Puvirnituq Snow Festival in Puvirnituq, Quebec in 2013, the cultural contingent of the AWG in 2014 (Fairbanks, Alaska) and 2016 (Nuuk, Greenland). This past summer (2019), the Inuksuk Drum Dancers performed on the International Stage at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto, Ontario.
In 2015, the Inuksuk Drum Dancers embarked on a collaborative musical and cultural adventure with Nipiit Katittut-Voices United. This ongoing multi-year endeavour has connected Inuit youth with young people in Ottawa who, together, engage in in social activism through discussion, performance of traditional and new music, and participation in the decolonization process.
Inuit Inngiqtingit/Inuit Choral Music, produced by Chris Coleman at Nuvu Music in 2016, is the group’s first recording. A second recording was released this year Inuit Inngiqtingit/Inuit Choral Music II.
BIO: Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis
Dr. Mary Piercey-Lewis has a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her research explored how the Inuit of Arviat, Nunavut, use their musical practices to negotiate what it means to be “inummariit”—“real Inuit” in response to massive sociocultural changes since three distinctive groups were resettled there in the 1950s. Her study took into consideration earlier moments of dramatic change, such as the histories of missionization, beginning in the 1920s, that led to different denominational affiliations for the three groups, and more recent sociopolitical events such as the establishment of Nunavut as the newest territory of Canada in 1999.
Dr. Piercey-Lewis holds a Masters of Music in Music Education from the University of Toronto where she studied choral conducting with Dr. Doreen Rao and orchestral conducing with Dr. Patricia Shand. She is the past director of the Bloor Street United Church Youth Choir, the First Unitarian Congregation Senior Choir, and the Hart House Chorus at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Piercey-Lewis has lived and taught music in Nunavut for over nineteen years. First, she taught at Qitiqliq High School in Arviat. In 2001 she founded the Arviat Imngitingit Community Choir, a mixed-voiced group specializing in traditional and contemporary Inuit music originating from the Kivalliq region of Nunavut. This choir travelled extensively throughout Canada and sang at festivals such as Festival 500: Sharing the Voices, held in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. In collaboration with Qitiqliq drama teacher, Gordon Billard, and Inuktitut teacher, Maggie Manik, she wrote and directed two musicals in English and Inuktitut. These musicals were focused on social and cultural themes and issues significant to Inuit students and audiences.
Dr. Piercey-Lewis presently lives in Iqaluit, Nunavut where she teaches music at Inuksuk High School. Her teaching strategies incorporate a premise of “music education as social justice: a means to promote social activism.” She is an Inuit music education consultant with many agencies where she works with multicultural teams (which include tradition bearers, Inuit singer/songwriters, drum makers, throat singers, story tellers, etc.) who are working together to produce and implement music education curricula and programs that promote Inuit identity, Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, youth leadership, and social activism through the study and performance of music. She writes choral arrangements of Inuit songs for her choir the Inuksuk Drum Dancers. Several of these arrangements can be heard on the choir’s two compact discs, Inuit Inngiqtingit/Inuit Choral Music (2016) and Inuit Inngiqtingit/Inuit Choral Music II (2018) produced by Chris Coleman at Nuvu Music.
Dr. Piercey-Lewis’ most recent publication, Inuit Inngiusingit: A Collection of Inuit Choral Music (Inhabit Media 2016), is a songbook for students, teachers, and musicians who are interested in learning Inuit music. There are fifteen songs transcribed from Inuit musicians who originate from Nunavut and Nunavik (Northern Quebec). Students and teachers will find the musical arrangements and the accompanying compact disc useful in encouraging the singing of Inuktitut songs in the classroom and at home. It is her hope that Inuit Inngiusingit: A Collection of Inuit Choral Music “empowers students to develop musicianship, to enjoy the opportunities to perform great music, and to participate in Inuit culture through singing.”