Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council
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Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra / Lady Cove - Sinfonia 3: Makkipok!

Location: St. John's, NL
ArtsNL Program Funded Under: Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations (NSO) /
Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations
(Lady Cove)
Amount Funded:$50,000 / $9,600

Lady Cove performing

 

Event Date: Saturday, March 3, 2018
Organization Websites: http://nsomusic.ca / http://www.ladycove.ca
Organization E-mails:
nso@nsomusic.ca / contact@ladycove.ca

More than 200 years ago, Moravian missionaries introduced European classical music to the Inuit people of Labrador. The Moravians used music to aid in their efforts to teach religion and left the communities they visited with not only the practice of Christianity, but a rich choral and instrumental tradition.

Over the past number of years, Dr. Tom Gordon, professor emeritus of the School of Music at Memorial University, has explored the Moravian choral and instrumental music in the communities along coastal Labrador, and how that music was transformed into a unique cultural musical tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador. His research has yielded a catalogue of hundreds of musical manuscripts.

Lady Cove’s artistic director, Kellie Walsh, was the musical director of two of Gordon’s projects: a feature-length CBC documentary on the Labrador choral tradition called Till We Meet Again, and an ECMA nominated CD, Pillorikput Inuit (Behold, the People) - recordings of sacred arias and duets, with instrumental ensemble and chorus.

concert planning team

 

Both of these projects feature eighteenth century classical music that has been reconstructed from original manuscripts found in church collections in Nain, Hopedale, and Makkovik. The recordings also feature classically trained Inuk soprano Deantha Edmunds and tradition bearer and lead tenor of the Nain church choir, the late Karrie Obed. The music that was chosen for the recordings is celebratory, of the key Christian liturgical season of Easter.

On Saturday, March 3 at 8:00pm Lady Cove Women’s choir, with guest choir Newman Sound Men’s Choir, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra Sinfonia, and guest soprano soloist Deantha Edmunds, with guided assistance of Dr. Gordon, performed a full length concert of the music featured on Till We Meet Again and Pillorikput Inuit.

The concert, which was called Makkipok! Labrador Inuit Music for Passiontide and Easter took place in the historic Basilica of St. John the Baptist, and it was live-streamed by Memorial University’s Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning. 

CBC will then air an hour-long documentary about the music, and the very special collaborative performance of it, on Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Just following the performance, we chat with Lady Cove’s Kellie Walsh and Hugh Donnan with the NSO to learn more about the event …

Q and A with Kellie Walsh of Lady Cove and Hugh Donnan of the NSO ...

ArtsNL: How did all the creative forces in this large collaborative project come together initially?

Kellie Walsh directing

Kellie Walsh

Kellie: Labrador feels like a second home to me. I’ve been working with children from across Labrador for over ten years - starting first with Festival 500, Douglas Dunsmore, and Janet Wiseman from the Labrador School Board. So some years ago when Dr. Tom Gordon asked if I’d be interested in going to Labrador to learn this music, with tradition bearers and musicians on the coast, I jumped at the opportunity.

I was the musical director of two of Tom’s projects: a feature-length CBC documentary on the Labrador choral tradition called Till We Meet Again, and an ECMA nominated CD, Pillorikput Inuit (Behold, the People) of sacred arias and duets, with instrumental ensemble and chorus. Both these recordings feature 18th century classical music that’s been reconstructed from original manuscripts found in church collections in Nain, Hopedale, and Makkovik. The recordings also feature classically trained Inuk soprano Deantha Edmunds, and tradition bearer and lead tenor of the Nain church choir, the late Karrie Obed.

During my planning for this year’s Lady Cove season I decided to ask Tom if he thought it would be possible to do a Moravian concert here in St. John’s. I really wanted Lady Cove and Newman Sound to have the same remarkable experiences that I’ve had, discovering this extraordinary music and incredible musical cultural tradition. It’s been one of the most beautiful and important experiences in my life, and I wanted to share it with the choirs I work with. 

Hugh: For us, we love working with Kellie – she’s an amazing local force in the choir scene, and when we chatted about this season, she immediately brought up the concept of doing a show which focused on Labrador, its people, and music. From there, as Kellie mentions, things fell into place with amazing people like Tom and Deantha getting involved. We were so happy to be a part of such an amazing night.

ArtsNL: How long has this particular event been in the works?

Hugh: Kellie’s had the concept with her for some time, but we planned this particular show beginning well over a year ago as we planned the 2017-18 season.

show poster

ArtsNL: What was the learning process like for the performers?

Kellie: The choirs rehearsed the repertoire for this concert for six weeks. The music is exquisite and has been a joy to learn. Everyone has had to work very hard to learn Inuiktitut - the language is beautiful to sing, but not easy!

Hugh: The orchestra worked on the music for a number of weeks as well and then worked with the choirs and soloist to polish everything. Our players loved the beautiful arrangements and working with such spirited vocalists.

ArtsNL: How did the CBC documentary come into the fold of the project – can you talk a little more about what it will cover?

Kellie: The CBC documentary will air nationally on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday. There’s also some interest in the documentary from a number of radio stations in Germany. The documentary will give the context and compelling story behind the music, people, and place. Angela Antle is an incredible artist and storyteller. She’s spent a lot of time talking to people and researching, including a recent trip to the coast of Labrador where she met with a number of people in Hopedale and visited the church there.

ArtsNL: What advice would you give to any aspiring or emerging talents in music? Those who are interested in choral or orchestral professional career paths, specifically.

Lady Cove performing

Lady Cove performing

Kellie: I’d encourage young musicians to surround themselves with people they look up to, respect, can trust, and will challenge them. You have to have strong musical skills as a conductor, but in my opinion, personal relationships and leadership style is equally as important, and you only learn that through working with people you admire, and who inspire you. 

Hugh: The NSO really spans all generations from youth to adults. Through our work in the school system with our Chevron Symphony Goes to School… and Beyond program, to our TD Go NSO discounted youth tickets for our concerts, to the incredible work of our Newfoundland Symphony Youth Orchestra – there are so many ways young people can experience and experiment with orchestral instruments and music.

Not everyone will have a professional career - but experiencing music in the classroom, a school band, through private lessons, or with the youth orchestra, young people can really experience what orchestral music is all about and the enjoyment which can be gained from being able to play as a soloist or in an ensemble. It can certainly lead to a lifelong hobby and love of music.

ArtsNL: What kind of reactions have you gotten regarding this project over the course of its development? And audience reactions to the material that’s been recorded so far?

Kellie: Everyone who becomes involved in the project or hears the repertoire is, first of all, moved by how incredibly beautiful the music is. Then they’re incredibly eager to learn more about the history of this musical cultural tradition that exists in our own province!

Hugh: I agree with Kellie – the musical traditions being explored in this music are so important to understanding the people of Labrador. This concert was a true cultural and spiritual experience for all who are able to come for it.

ArtsNL: Can you tell me a little more about Deantha Edmunds – her work, how she will factor into the performance, and what it means for your groups to work with her?

Kellie: I honestly will never forget the first time I heard Deantha sing I Know That My Redeemer Liveth/Kaujivara Jêsus innungmat. Her voice is rich and warm, she is incredibly musical, and she sings with ease and flexibility. Many of the works we performed included her as soprano soloist. 

Lady Cove choir rehersing

Lady Cove rehersing

ArtsNL: What are some of the challenges you faced along the creative development of this project and resulting performance? How did you overcome them?

Kellie: For me, the only challenges were organizational ones. Lady Cove has a very part-time administrative structure and relies heavily on the dedication and goodwill of the members and part time staff. This is a big project with many layers of detail.

Hugh: The Lady Cove team, part-time though they may be, has put in tremendous effort to ensure that this concert has come together so smoothly. Hats off to them all – and so glad the NSO can work with such professional people.

ArtsNL: What does the ArtsNL funding from the Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations (NSO) /
Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations
(Lady Cove) mean for you both, respectively? How does the grant enable you and your organizations to continue to develop? Why is it important?

Kellie: Lady Cove would not be able to undertake projects like this without the support of ArtsNL through the Annual Operating Program for Professional Arts Organizations. Ticket revenue from a show like this will never cover all of the costs, so this kind of collaboration would not be possible without funding from other sources like ArtsNL. We’re hugely grateful for the support of ArtsNL. This organization allows us to strive to be more creative and daring in our projects and programming. 

Hugh: ArtsNL is a critical public funder to the NSO through the Sustaining Program for Professional Arts Organizations and thank you so much for all you do to support the NSO. It’s through grants that we are able to keep our ticket prices reasonable while still being able to hire top notch musicians. ArtsNL allows the NSO to continue to grow and explore different types of music, and bring world class soloists to St. John’s each season through a diverse program of over 20 concerts each season.

ArtsNL: Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Kellie: I am so very sad to say that Karrie Obed passed away earlier this year. He was going to be a featured soloist along with Deantha on the show and was so excited to come and meet the choirs and sing with all of us. His passing is a huge loss for our province, this music, and for the many people who learned so much from him and cared so deeply for him. Karrie was one of the most humble, gentle, graceful souls I have ever met. His musicianship and voice were breathtaking and his passion for this music was something that inspired me every time I was with him. The concert was dedicated to him… I know he was there with us. 

Hugh: I echo Kellie’s comments, and we will certainly have Karrie top of mind this weekend. I also want to thank the amazing Kellie Walsh for the opportunity to partner with Lady Cove on this incredible show – we really looked forward to sharing this special music with all those who were able to attend.