Visit includes performance of I Lost My Talk based on poem by Mi’kmaw poet and elder Rita Joe, music and art clinics for 500 Cape Breton students

OTTAWA (Canada) April 26, 2017– The National Arts Centre Orchestra, led by Music Director Alexander Shelley, is performing a special concert on Wednesday, May 3 at 12:30 Eskasoni First Nation, Nova Scotia that will include I Lost My Talk, a multimedia work based on the poem by Mi’kmaw poet and elder Rita Joe, C.M. about her experience at residential school. Rita Joe, who was from Eskasoni, attended Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia. Her family lives in Eskasoni, which has been called the largest Mi’kmaq community in the world.

I Lost My Talk will be performed with a film created by Barbara Willis Sweete, featuring choreography by Tekaronhiáhkhwa Santee Smith and with live narration by Guna and Rappahannock actor Monique Mojica.  

This lush and powerful multi-media work was created under the artistic leadership of Alexander Shelley and Creative Producer and Director Donna Feore, and premiered during the NAC Orchestra’s 2015‒2016 season.  Reviewer Christophe Huss from Le Devoir called it one of “Estacio’s very best compositions for orchestra … a truly powerful and overwhelming creation.” I Lost My Talk was commissioned for the NAC Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of The Right Honourable Joe Clark, P.C., C.C., A.O.E. by his family.

The program includes a performance of the fourth movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor “From the New World”, and the third movement of Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 47 by Sibelius, featuring the GRAMMY and Juno Award-winning violinist James Ehnes, who is the tour soloist.

The concert will conclude with We Shall Remain (It Wasn’t Taken Away), a new song by Allison Bernard Memorial High School student Kalolin Johnson, her father Tom Johnson, and teacher Carter Chiasson, that Kalolin Johnson will sing for the first time with the Orchestra.  Allison Bernard students were nominated this year for an East Coast Music Award for their song Gentle Warrior, also inspired by the poem I Lost My Talk, through the National Arts Centre’s Rita Joe Song Project national outreach initiative.

Allison Bernard Memorial High School will host for the first time more than 250 students from five Cape Breton schools to take part in instrumental workshops led by nine NAC Orchestra musicians and Music Director Alexander Shelley.  A concurrent art-making session with renowned Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy and local artists will explore the theme “We Shall Remain”.  This workshop for 250 local Eskasoni students will begin with musical performances by James Ehnes and Kalolin Johnson while Alan Syliboy paints to their music.  Following, three large murals will be created and later displayed at the concert, and eventually as legacy pieces for the community. 

The Eskasoni concert is part of the NAC Orchestra’s nation-wide Canada 150 Tour, led by Music Director Alexander Shelley. The Orchestra’s visit to Eskasoni also includes a morning of band clinics with students from all over Cape Breton at Allison Bernard Memorial High School. The concert is not open to the public.

“Rita Joe and the people and artists of Eskasoni have inspired all of us at the National Arts Centre Orchestra,” said Alexander Shelley. “It is both humbling and a great honour for us to perform I Lost My Talk in Eskasoni, and to be able to make music with hundreds of young people from Cape Breton.”

“It will be a historic day for our community when we welcome the world and celebrate Rita Joe’s legacy on May 3rd” said Leroy Denny, Chief of Eskasoni First Nation. “I want to applaud everyone involved in bringing home I Lost My Talk. Rita Joe’s gentle poetry embodied truth, reconciliation and understanding when she softly said, ‘So gently I offer my hand and ask, Let me find my talk, So I can teach you about me.’ Her legacy will live on forever.”


Music clinics for Cape Breton students with Alexander Shelley and members of the NAC Orchestra
Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 9:30 – 10:30
Allison Bernard Memorial High School Classrooms, 4673 Shore Road, Eskasoni, Nova Scotia

Glace Bay High School Band Open Rehearsal with Alexander Shelley conducting
Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 10:30-11:00
Allison Bernard Memorial High School Auditorium

“We Shall Remain” art workshop for Eskasoni students with Alan Syliboy, James Ehnes and Kalolin Johnson
Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 9:30-12:00
Eskasoni Middle School Gymnasium, 4675 Shore Road, Eskasoni, Nova Scotia

NAC Orchestra concert featuring I Lost My Talk and We Shall Remain
Wednesday, May 3, 2017, 12:30
Dan K Stevens Memorial Arena, 26 Arena Road, Eskasoni, Nova Scotia


The NAC Orchestra’s Canada 150 Tour begins in Atlantic Canada from April 25 to May 7, beginning in St. John’s, then travelling to Moncton, Charlottetown, Eskasoni, Saint John and Halifax. Over 80 education and community engagement activities will unite the musicians of the Orchestra with 6,000 local students, educators, community leaders and artists across the four Atlantic provinces. The tour will also include a series of meaningful events that will focus on reconciliation through the arts.

“We are partnering with dozens of organizations and have the opportunity to celebrate the artists, educators, and youth who are shaping our future,” says Geneviève Cimon, Director of Music Education and Community Engagement. “We look forward to connecting with music lovers of all ages and exploring with them how music is a part of our country’s DNA, and how it can inspire creativity, collaboration and reconciliation.”

The Canada 150 Tour is made possible with leadership support from Tour Patrons Gail and David O’Brien, Presenting Supporters Alice and Grant Burton, Supporting Partners Peng Lin & Yu Gu, Education Partner Dasha Shenkman, and Digital Partner Facebook.


People from across Canada and around the world can follow this extraordinary tour by visiting  Daily reports will also be posted on the NAC Orchestra’s Facebook page, on Twitter at @NACOrchCNA (#nacotour), and on Instagram at @nac.cna.


The Canada 150 Tour is made possible with leadership support from Tour Patrons Gail and David O’Brien, Presenting Supporters Alice and Grant Burton, Supporting Partners Peng Lin & Yu Gu, Education Partner Dasha Shenkman, and Digital Partner Facebook.


In September 2015 Alexander Shelley took up the mantle as Music Director, leading a new era for the National Arts Centre’s Orchestra. Shelley has an unwavering reputation as one of Europe’s leading young conductors, notably as Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra and most recently as the Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Formed in 1969 at the opening of Canada's National Arts Centre, the NAC Orchestra gives over 100 performances a year with renowned artists including Itzhak Perlman, Renée Fleming, James Ehnes, Emanuel Ax and Yo-Yo Ma. It is noted for the passion and clarity of its performances and recordings, its ground-breaking teaching and outreach programs, and nurturing of Canadian creativity. Since its inception the Orchestra has commissioned 80 works, mostly from Canadian composers. In 2001 it inaugurated the National Arts Centre Awards for Canadian Composers and the recipients thus far have been Denys Bouliane, John Estacio, Peter Paul Koprowski, Gary Kulesha, Alexina Louie and Ana Sokolović.

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Mary Gordon
National Editor
National Arts Centre
Tel. (613) 947-7000, ext. 849
Cell: (613) 601-3877

Andrea Ruttan
Communications Officer, NAC Orchestra
Tel. (613) 947-7000, ext. 335
Cell (613) 613 220-5487

George Paul
Communications Officer, Eskasoni Band
Tel. (902) 379-2800
Cell (902) 565-0024

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