“It’s a great chance for Nunavimmiut to experience music”

Coming soon to Nunavik: beautiful new sounds


MONTREAL – Residents of three Nunavik communities can look forward to a double treat this fall.

Not only will not they get to hear beautiful music played by musicians from one of the finest orchestras in the world – they'll also hear two well-known Nunavik throat singers, Evie Mark and Taqralik Partridge, perform a original work written for them by Alexina Louie, one of Canada's most successful composers of modern concert music.

"We had a little taste of the piece the other day in a small rehearsal. It's very, very exciting," Partridge said.

It's all part of a project unveiled May 25 by the Orchestre symphonique Montréal and the Avataq Cultural Institute.

"It's a great chance for Nunavimmiut to experience music that we have only heard in movies and television," said Charlie Arngak, the president of Avataq.

Avataq has teamed up with the OSM to mount a special tour of Nunavik Sept. 11-15, when the OSM group will visit Kuujjuaq, Inukjuak and Kangiqsujuaq.

For people in those three communities Alexina Louie's new composition promises to be a big highlight.

"I integrate the instruments with the throat singers so that they're not a separate entity, but really a part of a musical unit," Louie said.

She said the composition, commissioned by Kent Nagano, musical director of the OSM, comprises a series of short movements inspired by Inuit culture and the North.

"Each one paints its own picture. One of them is called "The River" and that's one of their [throat] songs. The orchestra bubbles behind them so that I'm painting a picture of a musical river," Louie said.

Louie, a much celebrated Canadian composer of modern concert music, first visited northern Canada with Adrienne Clarkson, then Governor-General, in August 2000, on a tour of the Northwest Territories.

After being moved by the beauty of the Western Arctic, Louie wanted to compose a northern-themed piece one day.

"When I saw the Mackenzie River delta, I had tears in my eyes," Louie said. "So I said this experience, at some point, will come out in a way that will be surprising."

So when Nagano asked Louie to write a piece for the OSM's upcoming Nunavik tour, she jumped at the opportunity.

"When Mr. Nagano asked me to do this, I thought, I know what the experience is," Louie said.

Louie, who now lives in Toronto, has composed numerous pieces for orchestra and solo piano. She was named Canadian composer of the year in 1986, and won Juno awards in 1988 and 1998. In 2005, she was named an officer of the Order of Canada.

Her new piece is not the only acknowledgment of Inuit culture that Nunavik residents will hear during the OSM tour this fall.

The musicians will adapt a piece by the Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, Soldier's Tale, which contains spoken text originally written in French. For the Nunavik tour, an Inuk actor who has yet to be hired will recite an Inuktitut text prepared by Zebedee Nungak.

Nunavik audiences will also hear an old favourite, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

"One of the things that musicians all over the world share is the idea that music becomes much more meaningful when we share our music with others," Kent Nagano said.

Nagano, speaking to a group of Nunavik residents gathered inside Montreal's McCord Museum, told them that he already has "a feeling of friendship" with the people of Nunavik.

He also said he's looking forward to introducing Nunavimmiut to the music of Western composers like Mozart and Stravinsky, and at the same time, learn about Inuit culture.

Nagano presented Charlie Arngak with one of his conductor's batons. In return, Arngak gave Nagano a traditional woven basket with a seal-skin carving mounted on the handle.

During the tour, the OSM musicians will visit elementary and high schools to hold workshops with students. This will include an introduction to orchestral instruments and presentations on the composers whose works they will perform in the evening. A film crew will produce a documentary using footage shot during the tour.

Nagano, who was named musical director of the OSM in 2006, is a much-admired conductor who has worked with numerous orchestras and opera companies in Germany, France, the U.K and the U.S. He also serves as musical director of the Bavarian State Opera.

His Nunavik tour is financed by a long list of sponsors, including Hydro-Quebec, Canadian Royalties Inc., Air Inuit, Makivik Corp., the J. Armand Bombardier Foundation and many others.

For information on the internet, go to nunavik.osm.ca, where an online travel journal will appear this fall.



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