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Norway House youths to perform their own song of reconciliation with National Arts Centre Music Director Alexander Shelley at CMHR

News release details

Talented young musicians from Norway House in northern Manitoba will perform an original song they wrote about the dark legacy of Indian Residential Schools during an event on May 24 organized by the National Arts Centre (NAC) and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

One of five Indigenous youth groups in Canada to participate in the NAC's Rita Joe Song Project, the seven high school students from Helen Betty Osborne Ininiw Education Resource Centre will travel to Winnipeg for a showcase at the CMHR led by NAC Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley and hosted by Aboriginal People's Television Network Chief Operating Officer Sky Bridges.

Their song, "The Voices I Gained," was inspired by late Mi'kmaw elder Rita Joe C.M.'s poem "I Lost My Talk," which expresses the pain of her experience at residential school. The NAC developed this song project in response to Joe's call for Indigenous youth to find their voices, share their stories and celebrate their talents. In Manitoba, the project was delivered through the NAC's Music Alive Program in partnership with the Frontier School Division.

What: Interview / photo opp. with Norway House music students, NAC and teaching artists

When: Tuesday, May 24, 11 a.m.
(Showcase begins at 12 p.m. – see attached agenda)

Where: CMHR, 85 Israel Asper Way

A professional music video of the Norway House Cree and Métis youth performing their song was showcased in January at the NAC's Ottawa premiere of composer John Estacio's new work I Lost My Talk, also based on Joe's poem. Next week's event at the CMHR marks the students' first open public performance outside their home community.

The media event will feature CMHR president and CEO John Young, the NAC Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley and Director of Education and Community Engagement Geneviève Cimon, the Norway House students, their teaching artist Ted Longbottom, and their music teacher Ryan D'Aoust.

During the noon-hour showcase, Winnipeg composer Andrew Balfour and Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra musician Ken MacDonald will also lead a demonstration of their Music Alive Program workshops, engaging with students from Winnipeg's Polson School. The Music Alive Program in Manitoba is generously supported by Boston Pizza.

The showcase is part of a Western Tour by Alexander Shelley and the NAC Music Education department that will include a student workshop at Sistema Winnipeg on May 25 at 4:30 p.m.

See attached backgrounder for more information.

Andrea Ruttan
Communications officer, NAC Orchestra
National Arts Centre
613–947-7000, ext. 335
andrea.ruttan@nac-cna.ca

The Voices I Gained

I lost my talk, the talk you took away
Two ways I talk, both ways I stay
A prayer demanded, which I say
An order I'm forced to obey

I'm not who I am, or who I used to be
I wish I was free, free to be me
Made to feel at fault, I lost my way
Fear and dread, here I stay

I'm so tired of feeling unknown
Wondering if I can ever go home
My spirit is drifting slowly away
Hoping for the day it'll all be okay

Sometimes I cry, I don't want to be here
To even be around, or anywhere near
Whenever I think about it, I shed a tear
Isn't it clear: I don't want to be here

I have changed, I don't know who I am these days
Spent so much time here, I can't remember my ways
The days go by, night's a different place
If this is the past, then give me the space

Placed into somewhere I shouldn't be
To a place where I was scared to be me
Not all things are what they seem

Sometimes I wish it was all a dream

Written and performed by Norway House students Jenna Balfour, Michelle Chubb, Vivian Queskekapow, Kendra Simpson, Juliet Simpson-Hart, Dwayne Williams and Madison Winters.

AGENDA
Music Alive Program (MAP) Manitoba Showcase

Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Bonnie & John Buhler Hall

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

11 a.m. – Media interview opportunity

12 p.m. – Showcase begins

Welcome by Sky Bridges, Chief Operating Officer of APTN

Introductory remarks by:

  • CMHR president and CEO John Young
  • NAC Director of Education and Community Engagement Geneviève Cimon
  • NAC Orchestra Music Director Alexander Shelley

12:10 p.m. – Compilation video – excerpts of songs by Indigenous Youth in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Nunavut and Quebec.

12:15 p.m. – Norway House music students perform 

Students: Jenna Balfour, Michelle Chubb, Vivian Queskekapow, Kendra Simpson, Juliet Simpson-Hart, Dwayne Williams and Madison Winters

Music teacher: Ryan D'Aoust

Guest teaching artist: Ted Longbottom

12:25 p.m. – Sky Bridges interviews Norway House student on stage

12:30 p.m. – MAP teaching demonstration by Andrew Balfour and Ken MacDonald with students of Polson School

1 p.m. – Program concludes

Backgrounder

About the Rita Joe Song Project">

Late Mi'kmaw poet and elder Rita Joe, C.M., penned her poem "I Lost My Talk" to express the pain and suffering she experienced at Schubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia, and her hope and conviction that her words could guide and inspire Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Canada to journey to a place of strength and healing. In her autobiography, she challenged Indigenous youth to find their voices, share their stories, and celebrate their talents.

Inspired by this idea, the National Arts Centre asked five Indigenous youth groups across Canada to create a song based on Joe's poem. Guest artists were selected to conduct song-writing workshops with students in Maniwaki, Quebec; Norway House, Manitoba; Edmonton, Alberta; Iqaluit, Nunavut; and Eskasoni, Nova Scotia.

Each group created a professional audio recording and music video of their songs, which were screened in Ottawa in January during the NAC Orchestra premiere of composer John Estacio's immersive, multi-disciplinary work called "Spirit Prevails", which was also based on Joe's poem.

About the Music Alive Program

The Music Alive Program (MAP) is a flexible music education program of the National Arts Centre, delivered in partnership with local organizations, and designed to meet the needs of primarily rural and remote communities. In 2015–16, the Rita Joe Song Project was coordinated through MAP in Manitoba, in partnership with the Frontier School Division, for students at Norway House and Brochet.

In Norway House, Métis singer-songwriter and recording artist Ted Longbottom and music teacher Ryan D'Aoust worked with students as they created their original song. MAP will also partner with the community of Cross Lake this summer to support music workshops for teens.

Another MAP partnership in Manitoba with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra involves composer Andrew Balfour and horn player Ken MacDonald, who join forces several times a year to lead workshops in rural Manitoba – focussing on cross-cultural influences of both Classical and Indigenous traditions. They will demonstrate some of their activities and lead a sing-along of the MAP song at the CMHR event next week, with students from Polson School in Winnipeg.

The National Arts Centre (NAC) collaborates with artists and arts organizations across Canada to help create a national stage for the performing arts, and acts as a catalyst for performance, creation and learning across the country. A home for Canada's most creative artists, the NAC strives to be artistically adventurous in each of its programming streams – the NAC Orchestra, English Theatre, French Theatre and Dance, as well as the Scene festivals and NAC Presents, which showcase established and emerging Canadian artists. The NAC is the only bilingual, multidisciplinary performing arts centre in Canada, and one of the largest in the world.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights is the first museum in the world solely dedicated to the evolution, celebration and future of human rights. It is the first national museum in Canada to be built outside the National Capital Region. Using multimedia technology and other innovative approaches, the Museum creates inspiring encounters with human rights appropriate for all ages, in a visitor experience unlike any other.

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