The National Arts Centre Orchestra, led by Music Director Alexander Shelley, is performing in a special concert on Wednesday, May 3 at 12:30 pm in Eskasoni at Allison Bernard Memorial High School and will include “I Lost My Talk”, a multimedia work based on the poem by Mi’kmaw poet and elder Rita Joe, C.M. about her experience at residential school. Rita Joe, who was from Eskasoni, attended Shubenacadie Residential School in Nova Scotia. Her family lives in Eskasoni, which has been called the largest Mi’kmaq community in the world.
“I Lost My Talk” will be performed with a film created by Barbara Willis Sweete, featuring choreography by Tekaronhiáhkhwa Santee Smith and with live narration by Guna and Rappahannock actor Monique Mojica.
This lush and powerful multi-media work was created under the artistic leadership of Alexander Shelley and Creative Producer and Director Donna Feore, and premiered during the NAC Orchestra’s 2015-2016 season. Reviewer Christophe Huss from Le Devoir called it one of “Estacio’s very best compositions for orchestra … a truly powerful and overwhelming creation.” “I Lost My Talk” was commissioned for the NAC Orchestra to commemorate the 75th birthday of The Right Honourable Joe Clark, P.C., C.C., A.O.E. by his family.
The program includes a performance of the fourth movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor “From the New World”, and the third movement of Concerto in D minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 47 by Sibelius, featuring the GRAMMY and Juno Award-winning violinist James Ehnes, who is the tour soloist.
The concert will conclude with “We Shall Remain (It Wasn’t Taken Away)”, a new song by Allison Bernard Memorial High School student Kalolin Johnson, her father Tom Johnson, and teacher Carter Chiasson, that Kalolin Johnson will sing for the first time with the Orchestra. Allison Bernard students were nominated this year for an East Coast Music Award for their song “Gentle Warrior”, also inspired by the poem “I Lost My Talk”, through the National Arts Centre’s Rita Joe Song Project national outreach initiative.
Allison Bernard Memorial High School will host more than 250 students from five Cape Breton schools to take part in instrumental workshops led by nine NAC Orchestra musicians and Music Director Alexander Shelley. A concurrent art-making session with renowned Mi’kmaw artist Alan Syliboy and local artists will explore the theme “We Shall Remain”. This workshop for 250 local Eskasoni students will begin with musical performances by James Ehnes and Kalolin Johnson while Alan Syliboy paints to their music. Following, three large murals will be created and later displayed at the concert, and eventually as legacy pieces for the community.
The Eskasoni concert is part of the NAC Orchestra’s nation-wide Canada 150 Tour, led by Music Director Shelley. The Orchestra’s visit to Eskasoni also includes a morning of band clinics with students from all over Cape Breton at Allison Bernard Memorial High School.
The concert will be livestreamed for free at novascotia.ca across the province, thanks to the generous support of the Government of Nova Scotia.
“Rita Joe and the people and artists of Eskasoni have inspired all of us at the National Arts Centre Orchestra,” said Alexander Shelley. “It is both humbling and a great honour for us to perform ‘I Lost My Talk’ in Eskasoni, and to be able to make music with hundreds of young people from Cape Breton.”
“It will be a historic day for our community when we welcome the world and celebrate Rita Joe’s legacy on May 3rd” said Leroy Denny, Chief of Eskasoni First Nation. “I want to applaud everyone involved in bringing home ‘I Lost My Talk’. Rita Joe’s gentle poetry embodied truth, reconciliation and understanding when she softly said, ‘So gently I offer my hand and ask, Let me find my talk, So I can teach you about me.’ Her legacy will live on forever.”