Renowned for their outstanding musicianship and committed performances, Vancouver’s musica intima is currently on a cross-country presentation of Nagamo – 'sings’ in Cree. A musical reimagining of history in which the Ojibway language is set to music of Thomas Tallis, and Henry Purcell is presented in Cree.
One of composer Andrew Balfour’s latest projects, Nagamo features his hallmark multi-genre, multi-lens perspective as the music of English Elizabethan masters meets the language and teachings of the Indigenous Peoples of Turtle Island.
“This my ispiciwin, my journey, to understand my past along with my future,” says Balfour.
Of Cree descent, Balfour grew up a “choir boy” raised in a non-Indigenous family as a result of the Sixties Scoop – a term referring to the mass removal of Indigenous children from their families into the child welfare system, in most cases without the consent of their families or bands.
Having devoted a “great part of (his) life” to choral music, Balfour seeks to change the perspective on the music while “celebrating the beautiful art of part-singing.”
“Establishing a relationship between what we call sacred music and Indigenous spirituality has really been important to me,” says Balfour. “I’ve had this idea for many years. It’s a dream to be able to hear it come to fruition.”
An ensemble built on the “backbone” of English Renaissance/Baroque music, Vancouver’s musica intima was keen to work with Balfour after hearing an interview in which he mused about translating the William Byrd Cantiones Sacrae into Indigenous languages, says artistic manager Jacob Gramit.
“I thought that was just the most fantastic idea I’d ever heard in my life,” says Gramit – who brought the idea to the group and was met with equal enthusiasm.
That idea quickly grew to encompass not only a performance of Balfour’s music but a (JUNO-nominated) recording, as well as a cross-country tour with performances in Toronto, London, St John's, Winnipeg and Edmonton.
Hear Andrew Balfour’s ground-breaking reimagining of Elizabethan music into Ojibway and Cree, presented by musica intima, at the Crescent Arts Centre (Crescent Fort Rouge United Church) on Wednesday, March 15 beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Guest artists include Balfour’s own Winnipeg-based ensemble, Dead of Winter, and students from the University of Manitoba Desautels Faculty of Music.
For tickets and more details, visit: https://www.musicaintima.org/nagamo