8 years ago

Volume 20 Issue 9 - Summer 2015

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Champlain among the

Champlain among the Hurons. Now entering our 28 th season, the Brott Music Festival is the largest not-for-profit orchestral festival in Canada and the only festival with a full-time professional orchestra-in-residence – The National Academy Orchestra. Boris Brott, Artistic Director National Academy Orchestra of Canada Our 15 concerts for 2015 feature world class guest soloists, our exuberant young orchestra and an eclectic mix of orchestral, chamber, opera, jazz & pop concerts at venues across southern Ontario. June 18 - August 13 For concert details or to purchase tickets call the box office at 905-525-7664 or visit BROTTMUSIC.COM of truth to tell first, in a very short work that cannot resort, as historians can, to ponderous didacticism. Beckwith’s solution as composer has been to provide what he calls an “impressionistic summary of the Wendat experience, before and after Champlain.” “For a prologue suggesting ‘pre-contact’ I chose a feature that the French visitors found novel and remarkable: snowshoes. Against percussion imitating the sound of this mode of travel, individual voices shout out, as in a roll-call, the names of various Wendat clans.” The second movement, set in a European-sounding contrapuntal choral style, revolves around a “poetic epigraph written by a fan” at the front of the second edition (1632) of Champlain’s published account of his travels. “It employs the then-brand-new terms Canada and La Nouvelle France and elaborately extols Champlain, his ventures and his writings,” Beckwith says. The third and fourth panels evoke, respectively, canoeing and the Wendat “Feast of Souls.” “Once a decade or so, villagers would disinter their deceased and transport their remains to an agreed central place where in a week-long ceremony of dancing and chanting they would rebury them in a common plot, with furs, food, ceramics and other artifacts. The early French observers all mention this festival.” The fifth movement “an angry lament” is based on a paper George Sioui gave at Laval University in 1992 on the 500th anniversary of another famous voyage, that of Columbus, and recalls the life-patterns of Wendats in the years 992, 1492, and 1642. “His picture of the state of Huronia a century and a half after Columbus affected me deeply,” Beckwith writes. “He imagines a young Wendat, having lived through the crisis of European ‘takeover,’ calling on the Great Spirit to restore his people to their former dignity. When I interviewed Sioui in Ottawa, he generously gave me permission to set this ‘lament’ as my fifth panel.” But Sioui also advised Beckwith not to end there. “He thought the angry lament should be followed by more optimistic sentiments, reflecting today’s efforts towards reconciliation.” The involvement of indefatigable David Fallis as conductor and the Toronto Consort as musicians completes the picture for this fascinating project. “Among the Consort’s available instruments, I chose those most suited to a 17th-century Canadian setting: recorders, lute, mandolin, viola da gamba, chamber organ and (a first in my composing experience) hurdy-gurdy,” Beckwith states. On the percussion side he opts mainly for drums, rattles, sticks and scrapers. “I felt I should avoid metal percussion,” he says. “But on learning that small bells were favoured at that time as trade items I allowed myself a hand-bell. Shirley Hay, one of the First Nations drummers, sang me, to her own drum-beat, a traditional Ojibwe ‘mourning song,’ and gave me permission to quote it as a coda to the Feast of Souls movement. She will sing it in the premiere, with phrases repeated by the choir, as if she is teaching it to them.” All in all it sounds like a carefully thought through, lovingly crafted, deeply felt endeavour that will bring a truthful resonance to this summer’s planned 400-year celebrations of Huronia that might otherwise serve only to add discordant insult to historical injury. David Perlman can be reached at 40 | June | July | August, 2015

GREEN PAGES 11th Annual Summer Musical Guide

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