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Christine Donkin’s Canoe Legends will debut at PSO’s Northern Voyage

27 Dec 2016, Posted by Sarah Lazure in News

The Northern Voyage gala concert sponsored by Terry Windrem on February 4 will be the major event to mark the PSO’s 50th anniversary. To celebrate, the PSO has teamed with The Canadian Canoe Museum and Canadian composer Christine Donkin to commission a new work based on canoe legends, called just that, Canoe Legends.

Ottawa-based Christine was born into a musically active family in northwest Alberta. Her approach to music composition is influenced in part by the wide range of styles and forms to which she was introduced in childhood: folk, fiddle, jazz, classical, romantic, and much more. Christine studied music composition at the University of Alberta and University of British Columbia. She composes choral, chamber and orchestral works which are performed across the continent and beyond.

Christine’s Canoe Legends explores water and the canoe, which are integral to the identity of Canadians and those here in the region of Peterborough. As part of this new work, she is collaborating with Unity, a four-woman Indigenous a cappella ensemble formed in Peterborough in 2006.

As a collective, Unity members Barb Rivett, Joeann Argue, Brenda Maracle-O’Toole and Heather Shpuniarsky perform a mix of original contemporary music and traditional songs using only percussion instruments and their own haunting melodies. Each of the members brings her musical talents to the creation of the group’s original works in collaborative creative development. Unity will be incorporated into the introduction of Christine’s music with their wordless water song.

The second section of Canoe Legends features two scenes from the Indigenous legend of The White Stone Canoe. In the first scene, the protagonists are traversing dangerous waters in a white stone canoe in order to reach the Island of the Blessed. The second scene depicts the island itself.

The final section of the piece depicts two scenes from the voyageur legend La chasse-galerie: the deal the voyageurs make with the devil and their journey in the flying canoe.

This commission is a way of contributing to the art form and putting the Peterborough and area community on the map. There will be a clause accompanying the piece to say that it cannot be performed without collaboration with Indigenous musicians. The PSO’s hope is that other orchestras across Canada will adopt the piece and reach out to their local Indigenous musicians as well.