6 years ago

Volume 22 Issue 5 - February 2017

  • Text
  • February
  • Toronto
  • Symphony
  • Arts
  • Jazz
  • Musical
  • Quartet
  • Orchestra
  • Performing
  • Theatre
In this issue: an interview with composer/vocalist Jeremy Dutcher, on his upcoming debut album and unique compositional voice; a conversation with Boston Symphony hornist James Sommerville, as as the BSO gets ready to come to his hometown; Stuart Hamilton, fondly remembered; and an inside look at Hugh’s Room, as it enters a complicated chapter in the story of its life in the complex fabric of our musical city. These and other stories, as we celebrate the past and look forward to the rest of 2016/17, the first glimpses of 2017/18, and beyond!

“My Own Stamp” –

“My Own Stamp” – Jeremy Dutcher in Conversation SARA CONSTANT For someone who’s only been working full-time as a musician for less than a year, Jeremy Dutcher has been keeping busy. Fresh off the heels of an artist residency at the National Music Centre in Calgary and a solo appearance in Soundstreams’ Electric Messiah, Dutcher’s 2017 calendar is already starting to fill – appearing with the Toronto Consort on February 3 and 4, in Winnipeg and Kingston in March, and at the Music Gallery in April – and beyond that he has a clear artistic vision in mind. A classically trained operatic tenor and composer and a member of Wolastoq (Maliseet) First Nation, his performance practice blends his classical background with his interest in jazz and the contemporary, plus traditional music from his community. Here in Toronto, the New Brunswick-born singer is making waves with his distinct compositional voice – using song as his platform for Indigenous cultural reclamation and rediscovery. A lot of these upcoming gigs will include performances from his album-in-progress – Dutcher’s first. Titled Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonaw, the album will present Dutcher’s own arrangements of traditional Wolastoqiyik songs, and is slated for release at the end of 2017. In many cases, the songs on this album haven’t been heard in Dutcher’s community for decades. “On the East Coast, we’ve been dealing with the longest period of colonization – of cultural friction between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” he explained when I sat down with him last week. “We’ve lost a lot...Growing up, much of what was thought of as ‘traditional’ music wasn’t actually sung in the language or even originating in our territory. For me, I wanted to think about songs that are specific to my nation.” Finding those songs required legwork. Dutcher visited the archives of the Museum of Canadian History in Gatineau, Quebec, where he transcribed wax cylinder recordings made in Wolastoq territory by ethnographer William H. Mechling in the early 1900s – one of the earliest field recordings of Wolastoqiyik music. “Listening to these recordings for the first time, I felt a profound connection with these voices,” says Dutcher. “The sound quality may be scratchy and unclear, but [they] provide a unique glimpse into the musical lives of my ancestors.” He’s also being careful to recognize the bias of the original ethnographer – and take the work of musical reclamation for his community seriously. “For me, as someone who’s re-interpreting [these recordings], I wanted to question – as an artist and as somebody who wants to put my own stamp on this – how do I stay true to the melodies and give them the life that they deserve, without taking on some of the bias that’s really built into the recordings?” he says. “And I want to do it really right – you only get one first go.” Dutcher assures that the arrangements on the album, which will be for voice, piano, string quartet and some percussive elements, will be similar to his own work as an artist – classically influenced, but broad-ranging. “[Classical music] does inform the way that I sing, and the way that I play. But for me, this project is also so much more than that,” he explains. “It’s [also] complex, because Indigenous communities are not just one community,” he continues. “When you think about Indigenous music, a lot of people go straight to big drum songs. So I think a big part of this project is also education: to blow up people’s ideas about what Indigenous music is, and what it’s going to be.” The songs on the album will also all be recorded in their original language – and for Dutcher, that part is non-negotiable. “It’s all in Maliseet, and I don’t apologize for that,” he says. “I do sometimes translate, but sometimes not…and that’s a pretty strong statement, especially in this day and age. In my community there are only about 500 people who speak the language left. It’s at that place where if people in my generation aren’t taking linguistic reclamation, and the work that entails, seriously, then we’re going to lose our language, and [we’re going to lose] that entire way of seeing the world. “Going forward, I can imagine writing stuff in English,” he adds. Jeremy Dutcher “But for this one, I really wanted to say, this is who I am. This is the language that I choose to sing in. Come along for the ride.” The album is a timely one. It’s certainly not lost on Dutcher that a number of the upcoming shows he’s been asked to appear at fit under the year’s growing banner of sesquicentennial concerts, for the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation – and that, even when wellmeaning, when it comes to Indigenous representation it can be easy for non-Indigenous music presenters to miss the mark. “As an Indigenous artist, I’m thinking a lot about the sesquicentennial,” he says. “What is it that we’re celebrating? 150 years of what? Of ‘nationhood,’ which at its fundament is negating nationhood that has existed in this place for much longer than 150 years. “[This year], people really want to highlight an Indigenous voice as part of the [national] fabric. But for me, it has to have a critical lens. If it doesn’t then I’m not at all interested.” I mention the trepidation that I’ve felt from a number of local arts workers – myself included – about arts organizations that seem too eager to jump unquestioningly onto the sesquicentennial bandwagon. I’ve found myself increasingly skeptical of all shows painted with the “Canada 150” brush – even those that appear to be doing good work. It’s a sentiment that Dutcher shares. “I think that as both audience members and as practitioners, it’s okay to say, ‘I’m very skeptical about this – about all of this’,” he says. “And within that musical space, to question the hegemony of the Western canon and how art music is framed, and which voices get privileged within that framework. It’s an important question to ask and to keep asking. All the time, but especially in a year like this.” The first of Dutcher’s upcoming gigs, the Toronto Consort’s JOHN PAILLE 12 | February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017

Black CMYK Pantone an Ontario government agency un organisme du gouvernement de l’Ontario NEW DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC NEW DIRECTIONS IN MUSIC Conductor February 1, 2017 - March 7, 2017 | 13

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