“Truthtelling” through choral music: Andrew Balfour’s Truth and Reconciliation concerts

January 20, 2023

Andrew Balfour’s Captive receives a standing ovation at Choral Canada’s 2022 Podium Conference and Festival in Toronto, Ontario.
Photo: Roland Deschambault

Storytelling has an undeniable impact on our Canadian political imagination today. As a nation that heralds itself as multicultural, multi-ethnic, and an all-around hospitable place to live, telling individual stories—especially those belonging to the newcomer or marginalized voices among us—has become necessarily entangled in the way we understand our larger national identity.

Andrew Balfour’s Truth and Reconciliation concert series is one such instance of individual storytelling turned political. Balfour, a Cree composer from Winnipeg, Manitoba, has embarked on an ambitious project to inform—and transform—the landscape of Canadian political storytelling, through fusions of musical styles and the sheer power of the human voice. In May 2022, Balfour performed the third installment of the series, Captive, a project generously supported by a Reconciliation Grant from The Winnipeg Foundation, alongside other major funding bodies like the Canada Council for the Arts, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Winnipeg Arts Council. In collaboration with Dead of Winter, a Winnipeg-based choral ensemble, and a talented roster of Indigenous and Métis guest artists, Balfour presented Captive inboth Winnipeg and Toronto. Each performance was received with tremendous gratitude, a response that speaks to the powerful catharsis one can experience through artistic storytelling.

“Andrew’s direct approach, his direct words and body language, was so refreshing to witness as an Indigenous woman and artist,” reflected Cheri Maracle, an Indigenous Canadian actress who was featured as a guest artist in the Toronto performance at Trinity St. Paul’s United Church. “His artistry was captivating, evocative and true. The words hit and strung on my nerve, to where I had tears streaming down my cheeks. We know what we went through and what our ancestors went through, and what we still live. Picking up the dead pieces of colonization and claiming them is difficult for a nation. Andrew’s [work] drew attention to this reality—the bitter truths of life for us as Indigenous people—through beautiful music, voices, words and movement.”

From the beginning of his compositional career, Balfour has sought to reconcile his two worlds: the world of the sixties scoop which, growing up, led him to choral church music; and the Indigenous music he was introduced to by Elders as part of his healing journey. His earlier compositions like Wa Wa Tey Wak, Medieval Inuit, Empire Étrange and Take the Indian already showed Balfour taking on stories of the oppressed and sharing them with his audiences, combining the choral polyphony he grew up on with the visceral rhythms and keening melodies of his Indigenous heritage. In 2017, following the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, Balfour began programming a series of concerts with Dead of Winter (formerly Camerata Nova), a choral ensemble he co-founded, named in reference to the group’s cold but creatively robust city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Each concert of this series is curated around a theme or concept that resonates with the Canadian Indigenous experience, particularly the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples at the hands of colonial settlers. Taken (2017) is inspired by the taking away of Indigenous cultures and languages and the physical abduction of Indigenous people; Fallen (2018) is an anti-war choral drama focusing on the stories of Indigenous men forced into military service during World War One. Then, this May, Balfour and Dead of Winter added to their growing legacy as choral storytellers with the performance of Captive. Captive speaks to the Indigenous experience of captivity, from imprisonment and struggles with addiction to the idea of captive languages and medicines. Dead of Winter, alongside an exceptional roster of Indigenous collaborators, performed Captive in Winnipeg at the West End Cultural Centre, and in Toronto at Podium, Canada’s premiere choral conference and festival. The program was received with wild success in both cities, notably by audiences made up of mostly non-Indigenous people.

“This performance wasn’t a concert; this was ceremony,” remarked a well-respected choral conductor in the Winnipeg musical community. He was certainly not alone in his experience (and his comment could very well be turned into an epigraph for Balfour’s entire series). Simeon Rusnak, who holds an education in Music History at the University of Manitoba and now hosts Morning Light, a program on Winnipeg’s Classic 107 radio station, is a long-time supporter of Balfour’s work. Reflecting on the Winnipeg performance he attended of Captive, Rusnak writes, “Captive provided a rare opportunity to sit and wrestle with emotions, confront discomfort, acknowledge wrongs, and celebrate joys. To me, this is what Andrew and his compositions do in such a deft and poignant manner: address past wrongs while also confronting current realities.” Rusnak is speaking to his personal experience of Balfour’s music as a non-Indigenous person, but his testimonial captures the broader scope of Balfour’s project: that of remembering the specificity of Indigenous peoples’ affliction and reconciling it within the collective stories of our present, and future, nation.

“We do these one-word thematic concerts — Taken, Fallen, Captive — for our non-Indigenous audiences,” says Balfour. “For instance, what’s the Indigenous perspective on “captivity”? If these concerts were specifically for Indigenous people, we would need to perform them in an Indigenous language. But we want to tell stories about misunderstandings between non-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples, making a crucial point that these stories are not ancient history, but repeat themselves into the present day.”

In the Captive program, the theme of presenting Indigenous stories to non-Indigenous audiences manifests as a palpable, musical tension. Listeners hear Western classical elements of choral composition and performance reimagined within the improvisatory nature of Indigenous styles of music-making.

“Andrew’s powerful depictions of loss and injustice come through in the startling dissonances and repeated rhythmic gestures that he uses,” remarks Mel Braun, head of the Desautels Faculty of Music vocal program at the University of Manitoba and Balfour’s collaborator, as well as a conductor on all Truth and Reconciliation concerts. Braun has spent the last 13 years working with Balfour, witnessing the growth in his compositional voice. “A sense of the land we need to get back to also comes through in the hypnotic soundscapes he creates. Is there hope? Yes, but it comes at the cost of people acknowledging past mistakes and finding new ways of living together. As Andrew often says, it’s the artists with their collaborations, not the politicians, who will show the way to true reconciliation and growth.”

The Captive program—in both cities—opened and closed with traditional Indigenous Honour and Travelling Songs performed by Ray Coco Stevenson in Winnipeg and Rosary Spence in Toronto. Dead of Winter then performed “Woman,” a riveting and emotive piece written by Kristi Lane Sinclair (her very first choral composition). Electro-acoustic violist Melody McKiver performed alongside the ensemble as a guest artist for “Woman” and “Captive” to create an eerie but stunning soundscape that set a darker tone to the program, even as the Métis fiddler, Alexandre Tétreault, dotted the poignant atmosphere with lively displays of virtuosity (to whoops and hollers from the vocalists!). At the heart of the program was Balfour’s “Captive,” inspired by the story of 19th-century Chief Poundmaker. Poundmaker had been known by his people of the Poundmaker Cree Nation as a peacemaker, but following the North-West Rebellion of 1885, he was arrested and shamefully convicted of treason. During Poundmaker’s time in prison, his health deteriorated considerably and he died of a lung hemorrhage the following year.

It’s important to highlight that Balfour prefaced the Toronto performance with a dedication to Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance, a pair of sisters from Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, who are currently serving a life sentence for what is considered by many as a wrongful conviction. The sisters have been in prison for three decades, but in recent news, their case has been reopened for an investigation into a “miscarriage of justice.” Balfour, in his opening comments, lamented the recent case. He drew attention to it as a reminder that Poundmaker’s story of wrongful conviction belongs to the present day as much as to the past, as we continue to witness the injustices that stem from a history of poor storytelling and even poorer listening. In essence, Captive and its sister programs are a kind of call to arms, or rather, a call for better, more informed listening to those stories that appear easy to dismiss.

But what, exactly, does it look like to be a better listener? And who in our society do we trust as our storytellers? There is another looming question here that demands much more attention than a single article can offer. What is the distinction between “truthtelling” and storytelling, and what does this distinction tell us about the kinds of truths we seek, political or otherwise? These are difficult questions that may belong to a philosophical treatise sooner than a single article, though we may still use a single article—or a daring artistic project—as a platform to ask them.

“We, as artists, are truthtellers,” says Balfour. “We are the ones who are telling and respecting these stories. As in, realizing the importance of what it is we’re telling. We’re vessels for the truth. It’s not the same as government commissions or legal commissions; it’s important that we’re able to tell these stories without editing or censorship, without political delegacies. I think this is the important thing that Dead of Winter is doing, that is, making room for myself, or other Indigenous composers including Cris Derksen, Eliot Britton, Jeremy Dutcher, or any of the other guest artists we’ve worked with over the years, to tell their truth, as it is, without censorship.”

“The way he combines his influences to find new musical ways of telling stories is unique to him,” says Braun. “If anyone understands both sides of the colonial issue, it’s Andrew, because he has lived in both worlds. What he shows us in his music is how the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities can work together side-by-side to tell stories that create a beautiful new world. If that’s not de-colonizing, nothing is.”

Balfour’s project is not just to make room for more marginalized voices to be heard, but to challenge the ways in which we hear, and thereby understand, underrepresented and difficult stories. Amid a society increasingly disillusioned with its institutions, Balfour proposes that today, it’s the artists who are responsible for transforming our collective stories. It’s our composers, singers, and musicians who are empowered to break the violent patterns in our nation’s history, through sheer resonance and effective artistry. Indeed, the remarkable malleability, dynamism and technical gifts mastered in the human voice can convey truths that are at once convincing and impossible, accessible and ceremonious—all the trappings of a good story. Or the story of a nation’s future. Who knows? Attending a choral concert could very well be one of the more revolutionary things we do this year.

  • Sara Krahn

Watch Dead of Winter’s full performance of Captive from May 2022.


« Dire la vérité » par la musique chorale : les concerts de vérité et de réconciliation d’Andrew Balfour

La narration d’histoires a un impact indéniable sur l’imagination politique canadienne d’aujourd’hui. En tant que nation qui se présente comme multiculturelle, multiethnique et accueillante, le fait de raconter des histoires individuelles – en particulier celles des personnes nouvellement arrivées ou marginalisées parmi nous – est nécessairement lié à la façon dont nous comprenons notre identité nationale.

La série de concerts sur la vérité et la réconciliation d’Andrew Balfour est l’un de ces exemples de récits individuels devenus politiques. Andrew Balfour, compositeur cri de Winnipeg, au Manitoba, s’est lancé dans un projet ambitieux visant à éclairer – et à transformer – le paysage des récits politiques canadiens, grâce à des fusions de styles musicaux et au simple pouvoir de la voix humaine. En mai 2022, il a présenté le troisième volet de sa série, Captive, un projet généreusement soutenu par une subvention de réconciliation de la Winnipeg Foundation, ainsi que par d’autres bailleurs de fonds importants comme le Conseil des Arts du Canada, le Conseil des Arts du Manitoba et le Conseil des Arts de Winnipeg. En collaboration avec Dead of Winter, un ensemble choral de Winnipeg, et un groupe d’artistes invités autochtones et métis, Andrew Balfour a présenté Captive à Winnipeg et à Toronto. Chaque représentation a été accueillie avec beaucoup de gratitude, une réaction qui témoigne de la puissante libération émotive que l’on peut éprouver en découvrant un récit artistique.

« L’approche directe d’Andrew, ses mots directs et son langage corporel, étaient si rafraîchissants à voir pour moi, en tant que femme et artiste autochtone », a commenté Cheri Maracle, une actrice canadienne autochtone qui était l’artiste invitée du concert de Toronto à la Trinity St. Paul’s United Church. « Son art était captivant, évocateur et vrai. Les mots m’ont émue et m’ont interpelée au point de faire couler des larmes sur mes joues. Nous savons ce que nous avons vécu et ce que nos ancêtres ont vécu, et ce que nous vivons encore. Ramasser les morceaux défunts de la colonisation et les revendiquer est difficile pour une nation. L’œuvre d’Andrew a attiré l’attention sur cette réalité – les vérités amères de la vie pour nous en tant qu’Autochtones – par le biais de musique, de voix, de mots et de mouvements magnifiques. »

Dès le début de sa carrière de compositeur, Andrew Balfour a cherché à réconcilier ses deux mondes : le monde de la rafle des années 1960 qui, en grandissant, l’a conduit à la musique chorale d’église, et la musique autochtone à laquelle il a été initié par des Aînés dans le cadre de son parcours de guérison. Dans ses premières compositions comme Wa Wa Tey Wak, Medieval Inuit, Empire Étrange et Take the Indian, il racontait déjà les histoires des opprimés et les partageait avec son public, en combinant la polyphonie chorale de son enfance avec les rythmes viscéraux et les mélodies plaintives de son héritage autochtone. En 2017, à la suite des audiences de la Commission de vérité et réconciliation, Andrew Balfour a commencé à programmer une série de concerts sur le thème de la vérité et de la réconciliation avec Dead of Winter (anciennement Camerata Nova), un ensemble choral qu’il a cofondé et dont le nom fait référence à la ville de Winnipeg, au Manitoba, d’où vient le groupe, une ville où il fait froid mais où la créativité est forte. Chaque concert de cette série est organisé autour d’un thème, ou concept, qui fait écho à l’expérience autochtone canadienne, en particulier les mauvais traitements infligés aux peuples autochtones par les colons, s’inspire de la négation des cultures et des langues autochtones et de l’enlèvement physique de personnes autochtones; Puis, en mai dernier, Andrew Balfour et Dead of Winter ont ajouté à leur héritage croissant de porteurs d’histoires chorales avec la représentation de Captive. Captive traite de l’expérience autochtone de la captivité, de l’emprisonnement et de la lutte contre la toxicomanie à l’idée de langues et de médecines autochtones interdites. Dead of Winter, accompagné d’un groupe exceptionnel de collaborateurs et collaboratrices autochtones, a présenté Captive à Winnipeg, au West End Cultural Centre, puis à Toronto, à Podium, la plus importante conférence et le plus important festival de chant choral au Canada. Le programme a été accueilli avec un succès fou dans les deux villes, notamment par un public composé majoritairement de personnes non autochtones.

« Cette représentation n’était pas un concert; c’était une cérémonie », a fait remarquer un chef de chœur très respecté dans la communauté musicale de Winnipeg. Il n’était certainement pas le seul à vivre cette expérience (et son commentaire pourrait très bien être transformé en épigraphe pour toute la série d’Andrew Balfour). Simeon Rusnak, qui a fait des études en histoire de la musique à l’Université du Manitoba et qui anime aujourd’hui l’émission Morning Light à la station de radio Classic 107 de Winnipeg, est un admirateur de longue date du travail d’Andrew Balfour. À propos de la représentation de Captive à Winnipeg à laquelle il a assisté, M. Rusnak écrit : « Captive a offert une rare occasion de s’asseoir et de se débattre avec ses émotions, d’affronter l’inconfort, de reconnaître ses torts et de célébrer ses joies. Pour moi, c’est ce qu’Andrew et ses compositions font d’une manière si adroite et poignante : aborder les torts du passé tout en faisant face aux réalités actuelles » Rusnak parle de son expérience personnelle de la musique d’Andrew en tant que personne non autochtone, mais son témoignage reflète la portée plus large du projet d’Andrew Balfour : celui de se souvenir de la spécificité de l’affliction des peuples autochtones et de la réconcilier avec les histoires collectives de notre nation actuelle et future.

« Nous organisons des concerts thématiques en un mot – Taken, Fallen, Captive – pour notre public non autochtone, explique Andrew Balfour. Par exemple, quel est le point de vue autochtone sur la “captivité”? Si ces concerts étaient destinés à un public autochtone, il faudrait les présenter dans une langue autochtone. Mais nous voulons raconter des histoires sur les malentendus entre les non-Autochtones et les Autochtones, en insistant sur le fait que ces histoires ne sont pas de l’histoire ancienne, mais se répètent jusqu’à aujourd’hui. »

Dans le programme Captive, le thème de la présentation d’histoires autochtones à un public non autochtone se manifeste par une tension musicale palpable. L’auditoire entend les éléments classiques occidentaux de la composition et de l’interprétation chorales réimaginés dans le cadre de la nature improvisatrice des styles musicaux autochtones.

« Les dissonances surprenantes et les gestes rythmiques répétés d’Andrew font ressortir la puissance de ses descriptions de la perte et de l’injustice », remarque Mel Braun, directeur du programme vocal de la Faculté de musique Desautels de l’Université du Manitoba, collaborateur d’Andrew et chef de chœur pour tous les concerts sur le thème de la vérité et de la réconciliation. Braun a passé les 13 dernières années à travailler avec Andrew et a été témoin de son épanouissement en tant que compositeur. « Le sentiment de la terre et de la nature que nous devons retrouver transparaît également dans les paysages sonores hypnotiques qu’il crée. Y a-t-il de l’espoir? Oui, mais il faut pour cela que les gens reconnaissent leurs erreurs passées et trouvent de nouvelles façons de vivre ensemble. Comme Andrew le dit souvent, ce sont les artistes et leurs collaborations, et non les politiciens, qui montreront la voie de la réconciliation et de la croissance véritables. »

Le programme Captive – dans les deux villes – a débuté et s’est terminé par des chants traditionnels autochtones d’honneur et de voyage interprétés par Ray Coco Stevenson à Winnipeg et Rosary Spence à Toronto. Dead of Winter a ensuite interprété « Woman », une pièce fascinante et émotive écrite par Kristi Lane Sinclair (sa toute première composition pour chorale). L’altiste électroacoustique Melody McKiver s’est produite aux côtés de l’ensemble en tant qu’artiste invitée pour « Woman » et « Captive », créant un paysage sonore sinistre mais saisissant et donnant un ton plus sombre au programme, même si le violoneux métis, Alexandre Tétreault, a parsemé cette atmosphère émouvante de vives démonstrations de virtuosité (sous les acclamations des choristes!). La pièce maîtresse du programme était « Captive » de Balfour, inspirée de l’histoire du chef Poundmaker au 19e siècle. Poundmaker était connu par son peuple de la nation crie de Poundmaker comme un conciliateur, mais après la rébellion du Nord-Ouest de 1885, il a été arrêté et honteusement condamné pour trahison. Pendant son séjour en prison, la santé de Poundmaker s’est considérablement détériorée et il est mort d’une hémorragie pulmonaire l’année suivante.

Il est important de souligner qu’Andrew Balfour a commencé la représentation de Toronto par une dédicace à Odelia et Nerissa Quewezance, deux sœurs de la Première Nation Keeseekoose en Saskatchewan qui purgent actuellement une peine de prison à vie pour ce qui est considéré par beaucoup comme une condamnation injustifiée. Les sœurs sont en prison depuis trois décennies, mais aux dernières nouvelles, leur dossier a été rouvert pour enquête sur une « erreur judiciaire ». Andrew Balfour, dans son discours d’ouverture, a déploré cette affaire récente. Il a attiré l’attention sur l’affaire pour rappeler que l’histoire de la condamnation injustifiée de Poundmaker appartient au présent autant qu’au passé, car nous continuons à être témoins des injustices qui découlent d’une histoire mal racontée et encore plus mal écoutée. En substance, Captive et ses programmes apparentés sont une sorte d’appel aux armes, ou plutôt, un appel à une écoute meilleure et plus informée de ces histoires qui semblent faciles à ignorer.

Mais comment faire pour être plus à l’écoute? Et à qui, dans notre société, faisons-nous confiance pour raconter nos histoires? Une autre question se pose ici, qui exige beaucoup plus d’attention que cet article ne peut en offrir : quelle est la distinction entre « dire la vérité » et raconter des histoires, et qu’est-ce que cette distinction nous dit sur les types de vérités que nous recherchons, politiques ou autres? Il s’agit là de questions difficiles qui relèvent davantage d’un traité philosophique que d’un seul article, bien que nous puissions quand même utiliser un seul article – ou un projet artistique audacieux – comme plateforme pour les poser.

« Nous, en tant qu’artistes, sommes des diseurs de vérité, dit Andrew Balfour. Nous sommes ceux qui racontent ces histoires avec respect. C’est-à-dire que nous réalisons l’importance de ce que nous racontons. Nous sommes des vaisseaux pour la vérité. Ce n’est pas la même chose que les commissions gouvernementales ou les commissions juridiques; il est important que nous soyons capables de raconter ces histoires sans édition ou censure, sans délégations politiques. Je pense que c’est la chose importante que fait Dead of Winter, à savoir faire de la place pour moi, ou pour d’autres compositeurs autochtones, notamment Cris Derksen, Eliot Britton, Jeremy Dutcher, ou n’importe quel autre artiste invité avec lequel nous avons travaillé au fil des ans, pour qu’ils racontent leur vérité, telle qu’elle est, sans censure. »

« La façon dont il combine ses influences pour trouver de nouvelles façons musicales de raconter des histoires lui est propre, remarque Mel Braun. Si quelqu’un comprend les deux côtés de la question coloniale, c’est bien Andrew, car il a vécu dans les deux mondes. Ce qu’il nous montre dans sa musique, c’est comment les communautés autochtones et non autochtones peuvent travailler ensemble, côte à côte, pour raconter des histoires qui créent un nouveau monde magnifique. Si cela n’est pas de la décolonisation, rien ne l’est. »

Le projet d’Andrew Balfour ne consiste pas seulement à faire de la place pour que des voix plus marginalisées puissent être entendues, mais aussi à remettre en question la façon dont nous entendons, et donc comprenons, les histoires sous-représentées et difficiles. Dans une société de plus en plus désillusionnée par ses institutions, il propose qu’aujourd’hui, ce sont les artistes qui sont responsables de la transformation de nos histoires collectives. Ce sont nos compositeurs, nos chanteurs et nos musiciens qui ont le pouvoir de briser les modèles violents de l’histoire de notre nation, par simple résonance et par un art efficace. En effet, la remarquable malléabilité, le dynamisme et les dons techniques maîtrisés par la voix humaine peuvent transmettre des vérités à la fois convaincantes et impossibles, accessibles et cérémonielles – tous les attributs d’une bonne histoire. Ou l’histoire de l’avenir d’une nation. Qui sait? Assister à un concert de chant choral pourrait très bien être l’une des choses les plus révolutionnaires que nous ferons cette année.

  • Sara Krahn

Visionnez la représentation complète de Captive par Dead of Winter, mai 2022.



Notinikew Goes Cross-Country

January 20, 2023

Andrew Balfour’s Notinikew: Going to War has been making a national name for itself since its performance in November 2022 in Edmonton with the Chronos Vocal Ensemble. An anti-war mini-drama, and one of Balfour’s Truth and Reconciliation choral concerts, Notinikew will be performed again in February 2023 on two separate occasions, in two different cities. Andrew Balfour’s own vocal ensemble, Dead of Winter, will perform Notinikew in Winnipeg on February 20, and then in Montreal as part of the SMCQ (Société de musique contemporaine du Québec) Festival on February 24.

“Being invited to perform at the SMCQ Festival in Montreal is a huge honour,” says Balfour. “This is one of the foremost performing arts organizations in Montreal promoting contemporary music.” Since 2003, SMCQ has organized the MNM Festival (Montreal/New Music Festival), an international biennial festival presented in partnership with Radio-Canada and Montreal’s university sector. This year, Dead of Winter has been invited to perform Notinikew, adding to the group’s growing reputation as a nationally renowned vocal ensemble.

Balfour will spearhead both performances as Dead of Winter’s Artistic Director, alongside conductor/curator Mel Braun. The roster of guest artists for the 2023 performances includes Winston Wuttunee as narrator, Leanne Zacharias on electro-acoustic cello, Nolan Kehler as tenor soloist, John Anderson as bass soloist, Ojibway Song Keeper Cory Campbell, and the Winnipeg Boys Choir Trebles, directed by Carolyn Boyes.

Balfour’s inspiration for Notinikew: Going to War was sparked by his love of history, particularly the European wars. “While Indigenous individuals of Canada have fought in every major conflict from the War of 1812 to Afghanistan, they were rewarded for their contributions to World War One by being denied benefits and forbidden to leave their reserves,” says Balfour.

The motivations as to why Indigenous people would fight for a country that tried to eradicate their culture fascinates Balfour. “All war is insanity,” says Balfour. “I wanted to do an anti-war piece, but also question why Indigenous people would go and fight in that war, and what would drive them to sign up and travel overseas and fight in the bloodiest conflict ever at that time.”

“Maybe they went to fight to better their cause at home; maybe they thought if they fought for Canada that the country would reward them with giving them their ceremony or language back. Maybe they had a sense of honour. Maybe they wanted adventure.”

Notinikew: Going to War is part of Andrew Balfour’s powerful Truth and Reconciliation concert series, which so far includes Taken (2017), Fallen (2018), and Captive (2022). Captive was performed last spring in Winnipeg and at the biennial Podium Festival of Canadian choral conductors and composers in Toronto, to an outpouring of acclaim. Read the full story of Captive’s success HERE.

Dead of Winter will perform Notinikew: Going to War in both Winnipeg and Montreal. See below for the full performance details:

Winnipeg performance: Monday, February 20th at 7:00 p.m., Ukrainian Labour Temple, 591 Pritchard Avenue

Montreal performance at SMCQ: Friday, February 24th at 7:00 p.m., Place des Arts

List of Performers (Winnipeg and Montreal):

Composer: Andrew Balfour

Narrator: Winston Wuttunee

Ojibway Song keeper:  Cory Campbell (Winnipeg performance only)

Cello: Leanne Zacharias

Tenor Soloist: Nolan Kehler

Bass soloist: John Anderson

Winnipeg Boys Choir Trebles (Director Carolyn Boyes)

DOW Ensemble: Merina Dobson Perry, Brittany Melnichuk, Chloe Thiessen, Keely Mcpeek, Angela Neufeld, Donnalynn Grills, Carlie Fehr, Nolan Kehler, David Sawatsky, Kyle Briscoe, Matthew Knight, Al Schroeder, John Anderson, Caleb Rondeau

Conductor: Mel Braun

Buy your tickets to Notinikew: Going to War HERE.


L’œuvre d’Andrew Balfour, Notinikew, traverse le pays

Notinikew : Going to War d’Andrew Balfour se fait connaître à l’échelle nationale depuis sa représentation en novembre 2022 à Edmonton avec le Chronos Vocal Ensemble. Ce minidrame anti-guerre, qui fait partie des concerts choraux de Balfour sur le thème de la vérité et de la réconciliation, sera repris en février 2023 à deux occasions et dans deux villes différentes. L’ensemble vocal d’Andrew Balfour, Dead of Winter, interprétera Notinikew à Winnipeg le 20 février, puis à Montréal dans le cadre du Festival de la Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ) le 24 février.

« Le fait d’être invité à se produire au Festival de la SMCQ à Montréal est un immense honneur, affirme Andrew Balfour. Il s’agit de l’une des principales organisations des arts de la scène à Montréal qui fait la promotion de la musique contemporaine. » Depuis 2003, la SMCQ organise le Festival MNM (Montréal/Nouvelles Musiques), un festival international biennal présenté en partenariat avec Radio-Canada et le secteur universitaire de Montréal. Cette année, Dead of Winter a été invité à présenter Notinikew, renforçant ainsi la réputation croissante du groupe en tant qu’ensemble vocal de renommée nationale.

Andrew Balfour assurera la direction artistique de ces deux spectacles, aux côtés du chef de chœur et conservateur Mel Braun. La liste des artistes invités pour les représentations de 2023 comprend Winston Wuttunee en tant que narrateur, Leanne Zacharias au violoncelle électroacoustique, Nolan Kehler en tant que soliste ténor, John Anderson en tant que soliste basse, Cory Campbell, gardien de chansons ojibwé, et la section des voix hautes de la Winnipeg Boys Choir, dirigée par Carolyn Boyes.

L’inspiration d’Andrew Balfour pour Notinikew : Going to War est née de son amour de l’histoire, en particulier des guerres européennes. « Alors que les Autochtones du Canada ont combattu dans tous les grands conflits, de la guerre de 1812 à l’Afghanistan, ils ont été récompensés pour leur contribution à la Première Guerre mondiale par le refus des avantages sociaux accordés aux autres et par l’interdiction de quitter leurs réserves », explique-t-il.

Il est fasciné par les raisons qui ont poussé les Autochtones à se battre pour un pays qui a tenté d’éradiquer leur culture. « Toute guerre est une folie, dit-il. Je voulais faire une œuvre anti-guerre, mais aussi m’interroger sur les raisons qui poussaient les Autochtones à aller se battre dans cette guerre, et sur ce qui les poussait à s’engager, à se rendre à l’étranger et à se battre dans le conflit le plus sanglant jamais connu à l’époque. »

« Peut-être sont-ils allés se battre pour améliorer leur cause chez eux; peut-être pensaient-ils que s’ils se battaient pour le Canada, notre pays les récompenserait en leur rendant leurs cérémonies ou leurs langues. Peut-être avaient-ils un sens de l’honneur. Peut-être qu’ils avaient envie d’aventure. »

Notinikew : Going to War fait partie de la puissante série de concerts d’Andrew Balfour sur la vérité et la réconciliation, qui comprend jusqu’à présent Taken (2017), Fallen (2018) et Captive (2022). Captive a été présenté au printemps dernier à Winnipeg et au festival bisannuel Podium des chefs de chœur et compositeurs canadiens à Toronto, où l’œuvre a été acclamée. Lisez l’histoire complète du succès de Captive ci-dessous.

Dead of Winter présentera Notinikew : Going to War à Winnipeg et à Montréal. Voir ci-dessous pour les détails complets des représentations :

Représentation à Winnipeg : Le lundi 20 février à 19 h, Ukrainian Labour Temple, 591, avenue Pritchard.

Représentation à Montréal au Festival de la SMCQ : Le vendredi 24 février à 19 h, Place des Arts.

Liste des artistes (Winnipeg et Montréal):

Compositeur : Andrew Balfour

Narrateur : Winston Wuttunee

Gardien de chansons ojibwé :Cory Campbell (à Winnipeg seulement)

Violoncelle : Leanne Zacharias

Soliste ténor : Nolan Kehler

Soliste basse : John Anderson

Voix hautes de la Winnipeg Boys Choir (Carolyn Boyes, directrice)

Ensemble de DOW: Merina Dobson Perry, Brittany Melnichuk, Chloe Thiessen, Keely Mcpeek, Angela Neufeld, Donnalynn Grills, Carlie Fehr, Nolan Kehler, David Sawatsky, Kyle Briscoe, Matthew Knight, Al Schroeder, John Anderson, Caleb Rondeau

Chef de chœur : Mel Braun




Our 2022-2023 Season Breakdown

January 10, 2023

Phew! Our 2021/22 season was quite the ride, and as Dead of Winter glides into 2022/23 we’re showing no signs of slowing down. We have a season packed with rich and diverse programming, including Andrew Balfour’s Medieval Inuit and choral drama, Notinikew, as well as the 2023 Winnipeg Baroque Festival.

Check out the breakdown of our full season below, including individual concert details. We’re looking forward to singing for (and with!) you this year!

Rescheduled Performance of St. John Passion with members of the Vancouver’s Pacific Baroque Orchestra
Sunday, October 2, 2022, 3:30 p.m., Crescent Arts Centre (525 Wardlaw Avenue)
Go to www.winnipegbaroquefestival.com

Andrew Balfour’s Medieval Inuit
Saturday, October 29, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Westgate Mennonite Collegiate (86 West Gate)
Join us as we perform one of Andrew Balfour’s works from his Truth and Reconciliation concert series. Inspired by Andrew’s visit to Iqaluit, Medieval Inuit captures the endless beauty and wonder of the North and features Inuit throat singers Aleatra Sammurtok and Zeann Manernaluk. We are dedicating this concert to the memory of Dead of Winter board member and long-standing board member and Manitoba Inuit Association President for several years, Fred Ford. 

Please note, this will be a filmed performance (to be released as a concert film), and capacity is limited.

Get your tickets HERE

Celebrating the Carol
Saturday, November 26, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Crescent Arts Centre (525 Wardlaw Avenue)
Come sing “tra-la-la” with us at our FREE, annual Dead of Winter holiday sing-along! Our singers will be joined by the changed voices division of the Winnipeg Boys Choir and co-directed by Vic Pankratz and Spencer Duncanson, performing both classic and contemporary holiday music, including a couple of special Georgian carols curated by Dead of Winter member Matthew Knight. As is our tradition, we offer free admission to our holiday concert, but we ask that you bring a food donation for Winnipeg Harvest. 

Space is limited, please reserve your FREE tickets HERE

Andrew Balfour’s Notinikew (going to war)
Winnipeg Performance: February 20, 2023, 7:30 p.m., Ukrainian Labour Temple (591 Pritchard Ave.)
Montréal Performance: February 24, 2023, Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ)

Notinikew, anchors an all-Andrew Balfour concert—the perfect way to celebrate Louis Riel Day. The program will open with a number of the commissions that have made Andrew one of the leading voices in Indigenous music, including “Istichiwin,” “Omaabiindig,” and “Trapped in Stone,” as well as old favourites like “Vision Chant” and the “Domine Deus” from Missa Brevis. Notinikew, Andrew’s response to the plight of Indigenous War veterans, will close the program, its powerful lament aided by Winston Wuttunee as narrator, Leanne Zacharias on electro-acoustic cello, Nolan Kehler as tenor soloist, John Anderson as bass soloist, Ojibway Song Keeper Cory Campbell, and the Winnipeg Boys Choir Trebles, directed by Carolyn Boyes. At the invitation of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, DoW will also make its way to Montréal, where we share this same concert with new friends in Québec.

Get your tickets HERE

Read more about Notinikew HERE.

Winnipeg Baroque FestivalApril 15-22, 2023

But first…
Rescheduled Performance of St. John Passion with Vancouvers Pacific Baroque Orchestra
Sunday, October 2, 2022, 3:30 p.m., Crescent Arts Centre (525 Wardlaw Avenue)
Go to www.winnipegbaroquefestival.com for details and to get your tickets now! 

Monteverdis Vespers (1610)
Saturday, April 15, 2023, 7:30 p.m., Westminster United Church (745 Westminister Avenue)
Artistic Director: John Wiens

Jesu, meine Freude
Saturday, April 22, 2023, 7:30 p.m., Westminster United Church (745 Westminister Avenue)
Artistic Director: Kathleen Allan

Additional details about our 2022/23 season, including info on ticketing, will be released soon—stay tuned!

For more information about Dead of Winter, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.



$5 Raffle Tickets For Sale!

December 21, 2022

Still looking for gifts to stuff into stockings for the holidays? We’ve got raffle tickets! At $5/ticket you’re giving loved ones the opportunity to win a trip to the fabulous North, an original artwork, and more!

Contact Dead of Winter board member Carolyn Rickey:

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (204) 453-5770



Help us celebrate the carol on Sat, Nov 26 at 7:30PM

November 24, 2022

Saturday, November 26, 2022 at 7:30 p.m
Crescent Fort Rouge United Church (525 Wardlaw Avenue)

Come sing “tra-la-la” with us at our FREE, annual Dead of Winter holiday sing-along! Conductor Vic Pankratz and singers will be joined by Spencer Duncanson and the changed voices division of the Winnipeg Boys Choir, performing both classic and contemporary holiday music, including a handful of special Georgian carols curated by Matthew Knight. As is our tradition, we offer free admission to our holiday concert, and we ask that you bring a food donation for Manitoba Harvest.

Read more and reserve your tickets HERE!https://deadofwinter.ca/product/celebrating-the-carol-sat-nov-26-2022-at-730pm/



Andrew Balfour’s Medieval Inuit

October 28, 2022

Saturday, October 29, 2022, 7:30 p.m.
Westgate Mennonite Collegiate (86 West Gate)

Join us as we perform one of Andrew Balfour’s works from his Truth and Reconciliation concert series. wonder of the North and features Inuit throat singers Aleatra Sammurtok and Zeann Manernaluk. We are dedicating this concert to the memory of Dead of Winter board member and long-standing board member and Manitoba Inuit Association President for several years, Fred Ford.

Please note, this will be a filmed performance (to be released as a concert film), and capacity is limited.

PERFORMER BIOS

Aemilia Moser is in the 2nd year of a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Voice at the Desautels Faculty of Music, where she is singing the role of the Fairy Godmother in a performance of Massenet’s Cendrillon. She recently sang Alligator Pie with the WSO under the direction of Julian Pellicano.

Merina Dobson Perry continues to share her vocal gifts with many of Winnipeg’s professional choirs and also teaches music for young children. Merina has a secret “rock singer’ life.

Brittany Melnichuk is the conductor of the Rainbow Harmony choir and also works for the Manitoba Choral Association. She teaches at the Manitoba Conservatory.

Donnalynn Grills has sung with every major organization in town including Manitoba Opera, Rainbow Stage, Winnipeg Singers, and Canzona as well as the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, with whom was recently a soloist in Bach’s Mass in F.

Ange Neufeld, one of the founding members of Dead of Winter, is the tireless choir board rep for the choir. No one knows or cares more about the ongoing legacy of Dead of Winter and Ange is always there for everyone. When not singing with Dead of Winter or Winnipeg Singers, Ange is an Elementary School music teacher.

Carlie Fehr is in the first year of her Education Certification at the University of Manitoba. Every Monday she gets to work with the young singers at Dakota Collegiate, whose program is led by long-term DOW singer Justin Odwak.

Nolan Kehler is one of the busiest young tenors in the city, having recently sung the tenor solos in Bach’s St. John Passion under the direction of Kathleen Allan. When not involved in singing projects, Nolan works behind the scenes as a producer and studio director for CBC Radio.

Mike Thompson, another founding member of Dead of Winter is preparing for the Fall hunting season with his muzzle loader. Besides harvesting amazing venison, Mike is an enthusiastic drum hang participant and Manitoba’s only professional digeridoo player.

Kyle Briscoe is a recent graduate of the Desautels Faculty of Music. When not singing, he works as an assistant to Manitoba Opera CEO Larry Desrochers. Kyle will be singing the tenor solo in Peer Gynt with the WSO this winter and next season has him singing the tenor solos in the Messiah with the WSO.

Dr. Matthew Knight is our resident expert in Georgian music and has curated and arranged the Georgian portion of the upcoming DOW Christmas concert. Matt is much in demand on the local choral scene and is a father to two delightful daughters.

Al Schroeder is the 3rd founding member of DOW still in the choir and is also a member of Winnipeg Singers. Al’s facility as a woodworker and home renovator is much in evidence around the city. Al, along with Mike Thompson, is one of DOW’s overtoning experts.

John Anderson is a recent graduate in Vocal Performance from the Desautels Faculty of Music. When not sharing his voice with local choral groups, John can be found teaching at the Children’s House Montessori School.

Violist Jennifer Thiessen recently returned home to Winnipeg after two decades in Montreal. An accomplished performer on both viola and viola d’amore, Jennifer has commissioned and created numerous new works for viola, as well as playing early music. She has collaborated with many of today’s leading New Music composers, developing a particular specialty in improvisation. Jennifer is the Artistic Director For the Virtuosi Concert Series.

Percussionist Tori Sparkes is the Percussion Instructor at the Deasutels Faculty of Music, where she is inspiring a whole new generation of percussionists in the wonders of rhythm, colour, and exploration. Tori, the only true Icelander in tonight’s performance, plays with all the major Arts organizations in the city and regularly commissions new works.

Vic Pankratz has logged countless hours as a solo singer with Manitoba Opera, the WSO, and the RWB, and has also sung as a chorister with all the professional choirs in the city. By day he leads the choral program at Westgate Mennonite Collegiate. He is much in demand throughout the province as a choral clinician. If there is a hockey or football game on during rehearsal, Vic is sure to PVR it, so that he doesn’t miss a single period or down.

Mel Braun is the long-time Head of Voice at the Desautels Faculty of Music, where he delights in working with young singers both as a voice teacher and opera ensemble director. He has been heard as a baritone soloist in Opera, Oratorio, and Art Song all across North America. When not singing, teaching, or conducting, he keeps up with all the rock young bands around town. He has avidly followed the Blue Bombers for the last 55 years…..it has been a journey….Yikes!

Aleatra Sammurtok is a busy Mom with a long history of throat singing here in Manitoba. An active participant in the local Inuit scene, she can be found sharing her gifts at many of the Inuit ceremonies and celebrations. 

Zeann Manernaluk grew up in Rankin Inlet, where she started singing at the age of six under the tutelage of her aunt. After moving to Winnipeg, she immediately became an important part of the local throat singing scene. A mother of two, Zeann works in the health field.

Phoebe Mann – local singer and percussionist Phoebe Mann is an old friend of Dead of Winter and tonight finds her displaying her flag waving expertise as she creates the sound of those Norse sails whipping in the wind.

Medieval Inuit concert program — View on webpage or download to your device

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

You can help us continue to present beautiful music by DONATING TODAY!


Check out this live concert film for Andrew Balfour’s Captive filmed in May 2022 at the West End Cultural Centre in Winnipeg, MB.



Dead of Winter 2022-2023 Season

September 22, 2022

Phew! Our 2021/22 season was quite the ride, and as Dead of Winter glides into 2022/23 we’re showing no signs of slowing down. We have a season packed with rich and diverse programming, including Andrew Balfour’s Medieval Inuit and choral drama, Notinikew, as well as the 2023 Winnipeg Baroque Festival.

Check out the breakdown of our full season below, including individual concert details. We’re looking forward to singing for (and with!) you this year!

Rescheduled Performance of St. John Passion with members of the Vancouver’s Pacific Baroque Orchestra
Sunday, October 2, 2022, 3:30 p.m., Crescent Arts Centre (525 Wardlaw Avenue)
Go to www.winnipegbaroquefestival.com

Andrew Balfour’s Medieval Inuit
Saturday, October 29, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Westgate Mennonite Collegiate (86 West Gate)
Join us as we perform one of Andrew Balfour’s works from his Truth and Reconciliation concert series. Inspired by Andrew’s visit to Iqaluit, Medieval Inuit captures the endless beauty and wonder of the North and features Inuit throat singers Aleatra Sammurtok and Zeann Manernaluk. We are dedicating this concert to the memory of Dead of Winter board member and long-standing board member and Manitoba Inuit Association President for several years, Fred Ford. 

Please note, this will be a filmed performance (to be released as a concert film), and capacity is limited.

Get your tickets HERE

Celebrating the Carol
Saturday, November 26, 2022, 7:30 p.m., Crescent Arts Centre (525 Wardlaw Avenue)
Come sing “tra-la-la” with us at our FREE, annual Dead of Winter holiday sing-along! Our singers will be joined by the changed voices division of the Winnipeg Boys Choir and co-directed by Vic Pankratz and Spencer Duncanson, performing both classic and contemporary holiday music, including a couple of special Georgian carols curated by Dead of Winter member Matthew Knight. As is our tradition, we offer free admission to our holiday concert, but we ask that you bring a food donation for Winnipeg Harvest. 

Space is limited, please reserve your FREE tickets HERE

Andrew Balfour’s Notinikew (He who takes part in war)
Winnipeg Performance: February 20, 2023, 7:30 p.m., Ukrainian Labour Temple (591 Pritchard Ave.)
Montréal Performance: February 24, 2023, Société de musique contemporaine du Québec (SMCQ)

Notinikew, anchors an all-Andrew Balfour concert—the perfect way to celebrate Louis Riel Day. The program will open with a number of the commissions that have made Andrew one of the leading voices in Indigenous music, including “Istichiwin,” “Omaabiindig,” and “Trapped in Stone,” as well as old favourites like “Vision Chant” and the “Domine Deus” from Missa Brevis. Notinikew, Andrew’s response to the plight of Indigenous War veterans, will close the program, its powerful lament aided by cellist Leanne Zacharias and Anishinaabe Songkeeper Cory Campbell. At the invitation of the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, DoW will also make its way to Montréal, where we share this same concert with new friends in Québec. The narration for the concert will be in French with English surtitles.

Get your tickets HERE

Winnipeg Baroque FestivalApril 15-22, 2023

But first…
Rescheduled Performance of St. John Passion with Vancouvers Pacific Baroque Orchestra
Sunday, October 2, 2022, 3:30 p.m., Crescent Arts Centre (525 Wardlaw Avenue)
Go to www.winnipegbaroquefestival.com for details and to get your tickets now! 

Monteverdis Vespers (1610)
Saturday, April 15, 2023, 7:30 p.m., Westminster United Church (745 Westminister Avenue)
Artistic Director: John Wiens

Jesu, meine Freude
Saturday, April 22, 2023, 7:30 p.m., Westminster United Church (745 Westminister Avenue)
Artistic Director: Kathleen Allan

Additional details about our 2022/23 season, including info on ticketing, will be released soon—stay tuned!

For more information about Dead of Winter, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.



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. 

Click here to open Captive concert program in new tab https://deadofwinter.ca/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/CAPTIVE_Program_MAY_21_2022_PODIUM_Toronto_v1.0-1.pdf

OR,

Download the Captive concert program below

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 https://deadofwinter.ca/season/captive/

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.



Captive concert features rich slate of guest artists

May 10, 2022

Andrew Balfour

Andrew Balfour’s Captive, which debuts this Friday, May 13th at the West End Cultural Centre, mines the depths of human vulnerability, portraying, through original vocal and instrumental compositions, the Indigenous body and spirit held captive by a colonialist way of life. It is a challenging story to tell and a difficult one for Settler audiences to hear, but the aim of the Captive concert is empowering the storyteller and engaging the listener through a shared experience of music and poetry. Though the centerpiece of the program is Andrew Balfour’s original composition “Captive,” which tells the story of Chief Poundmaker’s imprisonment in Stony Mountain Penitentiary during the 19th century, the program is fortified by an exceptional lineup of work and performances by Indigenous women. 

“This program is a statement on real truth-telling,” says Captive curator/composer Andrew Balfour. “The unique thing about it is that there are so many Indigenous voices featured, and especially women, which is a crucial reminder of the fact that there are still so many murdered and missing Indigenous women in this country.”

Melody McKiver

“This program is a statement on real truth-telling,” says Captive curator/composer Andrew Balfour. “The unique thing about it is that there are so many Indigenous voices featured, and especially women, which is a crucial reminder of the fact that there are still so many murdered and missing Indigenous women in this country.”

The lineup includes performances by Indigenous violist Melody McKiver, featured in Balfour’s “Captive,” as well as young Oji-Cree vocalist Keely McPeek as narrator for “Selkirk Avenue,” an earlier work of Balfour’s based on a poem of the same name by Metis poet Katherina Vermette.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to perform Andrew’s work Selkirk Avenue at the Captive concert,” comments McPeek. “Art and music are such important avenues in working towards reconciliation; I’m honored to play any part I can in the effort.”

Keely McPeek

“Woman,” a choral piece by Haida/Cree singer-songwriter Kristi Lane Sinclair, is featured in the first half and sets a poignant tone for the concert. Sinclair is part of a new wave of cross-genre Canadian Indigenous artists and her musical roots fuse rock, folk, and classical. 

The second half of the program features the world premiere of “Same Wave, Same Sea” by internationally recognized Indigenous composer/cellist Cris Derksen. “Same Wave, Same Sea” portrays another kind of captivity that is no stranger to any of us, that of isolation during a global pandemic.

Alexandre Tétreault

A softer, though no less poignant tone is added to the program in the Metis fiddle tunes performed by Manitoba fiddler Alexandre Tétreault. Alexandre blends these traditions with polka, foxtrot, and the most beautiful waltzes.

“There is a heavy relationship between Metis and the Cree and Ojibwe people of the Red River Valley,” says Andrew. 

Through music and poetry, Captive roots the ugly truth of the Canadian Indigenous experience in the here and now, naming the injustices committed against Indigenous peoples as belonging to the present as much as the past. In naming this cultural oppression, however, the Captive program is an effort to plant something larger than hurt: a conversation that might move towards reconciliation and hope. 



St John Passion POSTPONED due to weather

April 11, 2022

Coming off the high of this weekend’s festivities, it is with some heaviness that we make this announcement. Most of you may already be aware of the recent weather statement issued for Manitoba as a Colorado low approaches our region. Due to the precarity of these upcoming weather conditions, we have decided to postpone the St John Passion performance with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra, originally scheduled for this Friday, April 15. We are, of course, disappointed in this turn of events, but we would like to emphasize that we are not canceling the St John Passion performance. This event is very near and dear to our hearts, and we fully intend to present it at a later date that does not jeopardize the safety of our audience and performers. We are currently working to finalize this new date and will loop you in with all the details at your earliest convenience.

In the meantime, we greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this stormy situation. The show must—and will—go on, so stay tuned!

Dead of Winter, Canzona, and Polycoro,
Winnipeg Baroque Festival Organizers