Captive concert at PODIUM 2022 — May 21, 2022

May 19, 2022

After two years of delay due to the pandemic, composer Andrew Balfour, with vocal group Dead of Winter, will finally premiere the latest concert in Balfour’s Truth and Reconciliation series.

This is the third in a series of Truth and Reconciliation concerts created by Andrew Balfour to acknowledge and honour the pain, sorrow and beauty of the experience of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. 

On Friday, May 13, celebrated composer Andrew Balfour will bring his much-anticipated Captive concert to life at the West End Cultural Centre, a week before he presents the same concert at PODIUM Choral Conference and Festival in Toronto on May 21. 

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On Friday, May 13, celebrated composer Andrew Balfour will brought his much-anticipated Captive concert to life in Winnipeg, MB, a week before he presents it at PODIUM Choral Conference and Festival in Toronto on May 21. 

Conductor Mel Braun will lead the Winnipeg vocal group Dead of Winter in Captive, the third installment in a series of Truth and Reconciliation concerts that began in 2017. Dead of Winter will share the stage with a slate of talented guest performers, including Melody Mckiver on viola, Alexandre Tetrault on fiddle, Rosary Spence, and Cheri Maracle.

The Truth and Reconciliation concerts are Balfour’s brainchild, and each concert centers around a theme that resonates with the Canadian Indigenous experience. Past concerts in the series have featured collaborations with an impressive range of Indigenous artists, including Cree hip hop artist Lindsay Knight and Polaris winner Jeremy Dutcher (Taken, 2017), and traditional Ojibway drummer-singer Cory Campbell and cellist Cris Derksen (Fallen, 2018). Captive will feature compositions by Andrew Balfour, Cris Derksen, and Kristi Lane Sinclair, with a glorious mix by Eliot Britton for commercial release after-the-fact. 

The ideas for the Captive concert started percolating during a composer gathering hosted by Dead of Winter back in February 2020. Balfour had gathered with Eliot Britton and Cris Dirksen in Neubergthal, Manitoba, where they spent four days workshopping their ideas. The gathering was an essential event in the creative development of the concert, and, originally, the plan was to perform Captive in May 2020. Then COVID-19 hit, and like so many live music events in the last two years of the pandemic, the performance was canceled.

Well, not exactly canceled.

The last two years have given Balfour and his fellow composers the unexpected gift of time, which they have taken full advantage of to build on and strengthen their original writing.

“I think that Captive will be profound in part because it’s changed so much,” says Balfour. “To have an extra couple of years to sit with the project has been very eye-opening as to what we want its statement to be.”

Ultimately, the pandemic has given Balfour the time to go deeper into the story he wants to tell, and figure out the best methods to provide the context of this story to his audiences. His own 25-minute piece sharing the concert’s namesake, ‘Captive,’ has evolved quite a bit over the last two years. Initially intended to tell the story of Chief Poundmaker, a famous chief of the Poundmaker Cree Nation, the narrative has transformed into a larger story of Indigenous incarceration, to be presented in five abstract scenes.

There’s a legacy in our country of imprisonment of Indigenous people, and it’s a very tragic part of our colonial history here; indeed, most of our prisons are still filled with Indigenous people. One of the key things these Truth and Reconciliation Concerts do is allow me and other composers to reset and rethink how we want to tell a story. Like ‘Notinikew’ (from the Fallen 2018 concert), it is not my intention to end ‘Captive’ with a positive note. Although I am myself a positive person, this is a subject that doesn’t have an optimal conclusion.”

Balfour is also careful to highlight that he does not speak for all Indigenous people. 

“I can only speak from my perspective. I’ve had a little experience within the justice system myself, and have seen the powerful tragedy and racial injustice from the inside. But this injustice is everywhere; it’s in the medical system, it’s in the social system, it’s in our religious institutions, it’s everywhere. And the people who work in these systems, they are our intended audience.”

Balfour and Dead of Winter will debuted Captive in Winnipeg, MB, at the West End Cultural Centre on the evening of Friday, May 13. This performance, however, covered only half of the excitement. A week following the concert premiere, Balfour and Dead of Winter will present Captive on the national stage in Toronto at PODIUM, Canada’s national choral conference and festival. The invitation to perform at the conference is an immense honour for Balfour, whose much-anticipated concert will be a feature of the festival. 

For more information, including performer bios and additional show notes, please visit

Read more about Andrew Balfour:
Choral maestro Andrew Balfour pursues his Indigenous identity through musicThe Globe and Mail

Check out this video for I Went to War / Poni pimacisiwin (the end of living)— an excerpt from Notinikew (Going to War) by Andrew Balfour and featuring cellist Cris Derksen and the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir.