Come in, two-legged beings
come in all people
There is good life here
In anticipation of June 21 and National Indigenous Peoples Day, this week’s Home Delivery invites you to reflect on music from several past concerts celebrating the diverse and powerful voices of Indigenous artists.
First, composer/conductor Andrew Balfour (Cree) leads soaring human voices to welcome us into our virtual space. Then you’ll hear the world premiere performances of two works by Ian Cusson (Métis) from 2019’s Mòshkamo Festival. The Home Delivery concludes with the voices and words of two remarkable women: actor Monique Mojica (Guna and Rappahannock) inhabits the words of Mi’kmaw Elder and poet Rita Joe; and Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq performs her own work, Qiksaaktuq, from our concert on International Women’s Day, on March 8, 2019.
Andrew Balfour’s a cappella choral piece, Ambe, is based on an original song in Ojibway, the words of which were gifted to him by traditional drummer and singer Cory Campbell. Campbell describes his words as “a call to the people to the ceremonial way of life”. The steady beat represents the heartbeat of Mother Earth, with the lyrical sopranos conveying the powerful totem of the eagle, which represents the teachings of love, wisdom and strength.
We embraced Ian Cusson as part of the NAC Orchestra family when he became one of our inaugural Carrefour Composers. His time with the Orchestra resulted in two new works. Dodo, mon tout petit, performed by soprano Melody Courage (Métis), is a special work that will be a lasting demonstration of reconciliation: it will forever stand in place of a different aria in the 1967 opera Louis Riel (created by Harry Somers and Mavor Moore), an aria which was culturally appropriated from Nisga’a people without permission.
Le loup de Lafontaine, Ian’s second Carrefour commission, is a fable about a wolf based on part-legend, part-history from Ian’s family’s hometown in Georgian Bay. At the time of the story, various settler and Indigenous communities lived in close proximity, though wary of the other. When a wolf comes to town, the community is united in fear of this new “outsider” and works together to defeat it. In this work, Ian has skillfully woven a beautiful tapestry awash of colour and texture, descriptive scenery, and human emotion of victory and loss.
When you hear the words from Mi’kmaw Elder Rita Joe’s poem, I Lost My Talk, you can’t help but be moved by their beauty and hard-hitting truths. Monique Mojica powerfully embodies Rita Joe’s words, amidst the lush musical landscape by composer John Estacio. Hear Principal Flute Joanna G’froerer represent Rita’s journey in this flagship piece from our project, Life Reflected.
The experience of Tanya Tagaq performing Qiksaaktuq is like none other. The Inuktitut word for grief, this piece is dedicated to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and to those who grieve for them. As Tanya’s gut wrenching performance leads us through the five stages of grief, we are invited to experience those same emotions. This piece, and her performance, is powerful, visceral and leaves an indelible mark on both performer and listener. It will remain with you long after you hear it.
Le loup de Lafontaine is a dance work based on a story, part-legend and part-history, that takes place in the small French-speaking Ontario community of Lafontaine in 1902. The story is a cautionary tale of a diverse but divided community ravaged by a lone wolf.
Lafontaine lies on the banks of Georgian Bay and has long been a meeting place of different peoples. In the time of the story, various settler and Indigenous communities lived in close proximity, one to the other, rarely intermixing. Each had a deep mistrust of the other.
It is only with the arrival of the wolf – an outsider – that the community comes to terms with their divided nature. They unite, despite their differences, with the common goal of ridding the land of the intruder.
The wolf in the story is the testing place of the community’s fears and rivalries and hatred. As the outsider, it becomes a scapegoat whose expulsion from the community will be the means by which the divided peoples are restored.
The wolf is hunted and killed. The town is rid of the intruder and the community is united – but at a cost.
[0’00”] Evening in early spring in the small country-side community of Lafontaine, on the shores of Georgian Bay. The area has long been a meeting place, and in 1902, is the home of several distinct people groups: Métis, Ojibwe and various French settlers, all of whom share a deep mistrust of the other.
[2’26”] Inside the local tavern, townsfolk drink and dance. When Joseph Lortie, a drunk French man stumbles into François Labatte, a Métis man, François berates the man and all Frenchmen like him. Joseph challenges François: they will each dance for the honour of their people.
[3’39”] The Métis tune their fiddles and François and his wife dance.
[4’52”] Joseph stumbles into the middle of the room and attempts to dance. Barely able to stand, he falls over. His friends help him up and a young French man takes his place in the competition.
[7’10”] Just as a fight is about to break out, the sound of a howling wolf stops everyone. A wolf loose in the village means one thing: it is hungry. Panic ensues and everyone rushes for the door.
[7’45”] An early morning fog lingers over an empty field. Out of nowhere, the wolf appears.
[9’10”] He is cautious, timid even.
[10’16”] A butterfly appears. He chases it away. A distant bird calls. Curious, he replies.
The butterfly returns. Together, they play, running through the field.
[11’06”] The wolf stops dead in his tracks when he comes face-to-face with a small girl. The girl approaches the wolf. Ever so carefully, the wolf approaches the girl.
[11’52”] They play together: a mystical dance, until, exhausted, they lay down in the field and fall asleep.
[14’58”] They awaken to the commotion of the enraged townspeople. Before anyone can lay hands on him, the wolf vanishes.
[15’55”] Fear of the wolf is at an extreme. The entire community holds its breath.
[17’10] The townspeople, French, Métis and Ojibwe rally together. The wolf must be stopped. Putting aside their differences, they will hunt the wolf together.
[17’20”] A first group of hunters sets out in search of the wolf but are unsuccessful. A second group of hunters try their luck. They shoot, but miss.
[18’26”] The one-eyed Théophile Brunelle takes aim, shoots and misses. Again he tries. In one last attempt, he aims his gun across the field, closes his one good eye and shoots. The bullet hits the animal.
[18’58”] The wolf limps off into the bush and dies.
[20’42”] Animals from the surrounding bush try to wake him before the hunters arrive.
[21’03”] The hunters find the wolf and drag him to the town square. They string up his lifeless body in front of the church. The townspeople rejoice.
[21’45”] Pushing through the crowd, the young girl reaches the square and sees the wolf.
[22’41”] A church bell sounds, calling the townspeople. They enter the church. A hymn plays from within as the townspeople hold a Mass in celebration of the wolf’s death. Alone, outside, the girl weeps.