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Volume 18 Issue 5 - February 2013

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  • February
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the recording cannot be

the recording cannot be recommendedhighly enough. Sealy’s compositions andown pianistic talents aside, credit mustbe given to the recording’s producer andSealy’s right-hand man, Paul Novotny,as well as the stellar supporting talent,from the Faith Chorale featuring SharonLee Williams to saxophonist Phil Dwyerto narrators Don Francks and JackieRichardson. Africville Suite achieves oneof the highest artistic pinnacles possible:it brings into the light a story that many Canadians have been blind to; astory that is at once heartbreaking and eye-opening, tragic yet inspiring.A story that we as Canadians must reflect on, honour and learn from.“That’s what I found so phenomenal about this particular project,”agrees Richardson. “You know, all these years, it’s just been in the knowin eastern Canada. It wasn’t until Joe put out this CD that it came intopeople’s consciousness. I remember this company of landscapersapproaching Joe and asking him to perform at their gala saying ‘We’veheard your story, we want you to share it.’ It just seemed to come fromunexpected places, and it still does! Without this project, the Africvillestory wouldn’t be out there the same way.”“I’m really happy to say I’ve been able to tour Canada with it, and alittle bit in the states, and even Europe,” says Sealy. “I remember we dida concert in Denmark and there was this little choir who asked for thechoir parts for the pieces and, when we got there to perform, these volunteerchoir people came up there to sing with us! The last concert onthat tour was in another town called Fredericia, on our way back. Andto our surprise, they all came down from up north to sing with us onthe last night. And that’s in Denmark!”Africville Suite began as a much shorter musical piece consistingof three movements and dedicated to the memory of his father, whopassed away in 1992. Encouraged by concert presenters to expand thework, Sealy put it off for months but finally faced the music upon theinsistence of his wife, who helped him prepare for the project.“It was challenging,” he recalls. “It was when I did my research, that’swhen I really got into the story and the story that really needed to betold. When I found out about what they did and when I found out howthey did it, the sneaky way that they conned people into getting off theirproperties, and the injustice of it all. Right near the end, there was acore of people in the community that just did not want to leave, werenot going to leave, that’s it. Well, they came in around midnight with abulldozer and they bulldozed the church. And in a community like thatwhen you kill the church, you kill the heart, and that was so demoralizing.It’s still a touchy issue for me.”There were musical challenges, too.“It would have been easier to write a suite about a community inAfrica, because you’d have indigenous rhythms, cultural and everythingelse, but this place was Halifax, it was a little section of Halifax,you know, that most people didn’t go to. And you know, they listenedto the radio, they listened to Motown, they listened to Hank Jones, theylistened to Don Messer, they listened to everybody. So what I endedThe Koskies, Ray and Rochelle, with Sealyand Richardson at the Paintbox Bistro.up doing was basing the suite on events,personalities and locations. So there aremovements about Joe Louis (“BrownBomber”) and Duke Ellington (“Duke’s inTown”), who both visited Africville. Andabout Reverend Deacon Jones planting agreen fence post and having it grow intoa tree (“Caterpillar Tree”) — and how thistree survived — the caterpillars would eatall of its leaves, and trees without leavescan’t live, but this tree lived and whatkilled it was the bulldozer coming in and knocking it down. To me thattree became a symbol for the community — being resilient, surviving forover 120 years on their own resources, with everything stacked againstthem. They had a burning dump, they had a hospital for infectious diseasesduring the First World War, a fertilization plant, a meat factory, aslaughterhouse, anything they didn’t want anywhere else. And yet, itwas a close-knit family.”Seventeen years later, Africville Stories is an update on the suite, featuringadditional lyrics and a brand new song; all this is to reflect thatthe story continues to evolve, to this day. Certainly, since the recording’srelease there have been some triumphs to celebrate. As the community’sdemise became a symbol for the struggle against racism, the siteof Africville was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1996.In May 2005, a bill was introduced into Nova Scotia’s provincial legislaturecalled the Africville Act, which included a call for a formal apologyfrom the government, funding for compensation and historic preservationand a rebuilding of the Seaview African United Baptist Church,demolished in 1969 and rebuilt in the summer of 2011.“Yes, they finally rebuilt that church, in 2011,” says Sealy. “And thatwas great news. But you know what? You still can’t use it, and you knowwhy? Because there’s supposed to be a museum right next to it, but themuseum’s not built yet so all the artifacts that are going in the museumare now stuffed in the church. So it’s like a loggerhead.” He pulls outhis cellphone to show me a photo of the church. “See? There it is, sittingthere all by itself by the water, you can’t even go in ... you can’t evenhave a concert in there. I’ve been wanting to make a DVD of AfricvilleStories in that church, but I can’t get in there. I’m no crusader, but Ijust may call Marty Williams, I want to find out who’s on this committeeand who’s supposed to be doing something about this museum.”So there is definitely a “to be continued” to this story.To close our interview, I ask Sealy and Richardson what they thinkof the phrase “Black History Month.”“It’s a good thing,” says Sealy. “I wish it would be Black History Year,every year! We’re not just black in February, you know,” he quips. “But,if a month is all black history’s gonna get, it’s better than nothing.”Richardson says she agrees, and adds: “And with all cultures, becausewe are so multicultural here, if we can go and celebrate and share thesethings, that’s fine. As long as you understand that for us, it’s an everyday, every minute thing.”Ori Dagan is a Toronto-based jazz musician, writer and educator.10 thewholenote.com February 1 – March 7, 2013

MUSIC AND THE MOVIESMychael Danna, Film ComposerThey Shoot, He ScoresBY PAUL ENNISMoments after winning a Golden Globe for his score to AngLee’s Life of Pi, Toronto-based Mychael Danna is answering questionsfrom journalists backstage in the Beverly Hilton Hotel. I’mwatching it all on YouTube. It’s been only three days since he was nominatedfor two Oscars.“Ang is the master of subtlety,” Danna is saying. “He wants emotionto be built up and held and held and then at certain very key moments,released. And that’s something that musically I’ve also worked on,that sense of holding back emotion that becomes submerged and thenreleased at the right moment and effective that way.”The 50-something Danna fell into his career as a film composer byaccident. While studying composition at U of T he got involved in theatrewhere he met Atom Egoyan. Danna’s scored all of Egoyan’s filmsbeginning with 1987’s Family Viewing. He’s worked on dozens of moviessince, from Girl, Interrupted to Capote, from Little Miss Sunshineto Moneyball, from Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm and Ride with the Devilto Deepa Mehta’s Water and three films by Mira Nair.He has an uncanny, but totally unforced, ability to combine Westernand non-Western music seamlessly in his scores. And he’s someone wholoves being part of the filmmaking process, who loves being a memberof the team serving its master, the film. He brought a scrupulous senseof responsibility to Life of Pi.“I read the book [by Canadian Yann Martel] years ago and loved it.I felt very obligated to bring [its] essence to life,” he answers anotherjournalist. “I worked on this score for over a year because we had toDanna with hisGolden Globe.do the wrong thing many times before we could do the right thing.”In fact, he told Movie City News’ David Poland recently that heworked four months solid on the Twentieth Century Fox lot from morningto night with two assistants. The process was so efficient that AngLee was less than 100 yards away editing. They recorded the orchestraright on the lot.Back at the Beverly Hilton the press wants to know more, about hisrelationship to India and about his musical background. “I’m very familiarwith India,” he says. “I’ve been there many times. I’m married toan Indian. We have family there. It’s like a second home. It’s a placewhere anything is possible except what you expect.”continues on page 62February 1 – March 7, 2013 thewholenote.com 11

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