Voices of Mountains

The COC’s latest on-line offering is now available on-line.  It’s called Voices of Mountains and the video is just shy of an hour long.  Only about half of that is music though.  The rest is introductions, artist statements and a 10 minute piece about the Land Acknowledgement installation created for the lobby of the Four Season Centre by Rebecca Cuddy and Julie McIsaac.  It looks very interesting but, of course, one can’t visit it.


The recital itself features mezzos Rebecca Cuddy and Marion Newman with pianist Gordon Gerrard performing in the RBA.  Some of the footage is inter-cut with video of Aria Evans dancing in various Toronto locations.  It kicks off with a new duet by Ian Cusson with text by Joy Harjo called Fire.  (text below).  Like all Ian’s songs it’s very apt to the text and t’s nicely set up as a duet.  There’s more music from Ian later in the program with Rebecca singing a setting of one of Marilyn Dumont’s very witty but moving poems; The Devil’s Language. (The text for this one is also below in full, though the song only sets verses 2 and 3).

There’s the language lesson duet from Brian Current’s opera Missing too.  It’s the first time I’ve heard it since rather shockingly this opera has yet to be performed in Toronto.  I now understand the rather cryptic comment Brian made to me a few years ago to the effect that Missing wasn’t going to win him any awards from academic composers!  It’s straightforward and moving.  One can see how it fits in the opera but it’s not very Currenty!

There’s music by Fauré, Elgar and Offenbach too, chosen by the performers.  Who knew Marion was an Elgar fan?  I want to see her at Last Night of the Proms!  It’s all nicely done and a thoroughly competent recital.

The technical production is pretty well done too though we had a few glitches with getting it to play smoothly.  Not the first time I’ve had that issue with Vimeo.  My only real gripe would be that I’m not convinced that body parts in close up are ever a good way to film dance.  YMMV.

The video and full program is available here and it will be available until July 15th.

Fire by Joy Harjo

a woman can’t survive
by her own breath alone
she must know
the voices of mountains
she must recognize
the foreverness of blue sky
she must flow
with the elusive
of night winds
who will take her
into herself

look at me
i am not a separate woman
i am a continuance
of blue sky
i am the throat
of the mountains
a night wind
who burns
with every breath
she takes

The Devil’s Language by Marilyn Dumont
I have since reconsidered Eliot
and the Great White way of writing English
standard that is
the great white way
has measured, judged and assessed me all my life
by its
lily white words
its picket fence sentences
and manicured paragraphs
one wrong sound and you’re shelved in the Native Literature section
resistance writing
a mad Indian
on the war path
native ethnic protest
the Great White way could silence us all
if we let it
its had its hand over my mouth since my first day of school
since Dick and Jane, ABC’s and fingernail checks
syntactic laws: use the wrong order or
register and you’re a dumb Indian
dumb, drunk or violent
my father doesn’t read or write
the King’s English says he’s
dumb but he speaks Cree
how many of you speak Cree?
correct Cree not correct English
grammatically correct Cree
is there one?

is there a Received Pronunciation of Cree, is there
a Modern Cree Usage?
the Chief’s Cree not the King’s English

as if violating God the Father and standard English
is like talking back(wards)

as if speaking the devil’s language is
talking back
back to your mother’s sound, your mother’s tongue, your mother’s language
back to that clearing in the bush
in the tall black spruce

near the sound of horses and wind
where you sat on her knee in a canvas tent
and she fed you bannock and tea
and syllables
that echo in your mind now, now
that you can’t make the sound
of that voice that rocks you and sings you to sleep
in the devil’s language.

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