Andrew Balfour’s Truth and Reconciliation concert series continues this coming Monday – Louis Riel Day in Manitoba – when Dead of Winter presents Notinikew: Going to War.  

Premiered in 2018 to mark the centennial anniversary of the armistice that ended the First World War, the composer’s mini-drama on the plight of Indigenous soldiers serves as part anti-war statement, part commentary on the overlooked role of those individuals, and part testament to the sheer power of the human voice.  

“All war is insanity,” says Balfour.  

Set in fifteen movements – which include 8 choral numbers, narrations done by renowned Cree entertainer and respected Elder Winston Wuttunee, traditional songs performed by Anishinaabe Traditional Drummer and Singer Cory Campbell, as well as guest artists Leanne Zacharias on cello and the Winnipeg Boys’ Choir – it follows the poignant drama of a Manitoba Indigenous hunter/trapper who signs up to fight.  

“I always ask myself ‘Why did they go fight?’” says Balfour. “They didn’t have any rights. They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t leave their reserve without permission from the government. They couldn’t do their ceremonies.”  

Balfour believes it was, perhaps, to earn recognition upon the soldiers’ return home though tragically notes that was not the case.  

Most recently performed in Edmonton by the Chronos Vocal Ensemble in November, Dead of Winter revisits the work as part of their 2022/23 season with a performance at the Ukrainian Labour Temple on Monday, February 20 before presenting the work at the renowned Place des Arts in Montreal when they perform as part of the acclaimed Montreal New Music Festival.  

“It’s a small ensemble – 14 singers” says conductor/curator Mel Braun. “And we’re singing in big places.” 

Dead of Winter fills those halls with their emotive, communicative and expressive storytelling, according to Braun.    

“That is one of the things (about the choir) that has really evolved,” he says.  

For Balfour, the opportunity to present his work on a national stage is the “thrill of a lifetime” – one in which he and the ensemble represent not only Manitoba but Indigenous storytelling.    

"That’s the Canada that I want to be a part of,” says Balfour. “We’re not doing Mozart and Bach. We’re doing something very relevant to the vision of the country and what we want to be. It’s important for all Canadians to be able to listen to this story.”  

Visit: for tickets and details.