ANTIGONISH, N.S. — Performer, composer, activist and musicologist — these roles are all infused into Jeremy Dutcher’s art and way of life.
His music, too, transcends boundaries; unapologetically playful in its incorporation of classical influences, full of reverence for the traditional songs of his home and teeming with the urgency of modern-day struggles of resistance.
Dutcher will take centre stage Sunday, Dec. 1 at the St. F.X. Schwartz School of Business Auditorium, as part of the 2019 Antigonish Performing Arts (APA) Series.
Showtime is 7:30 p.m.
Dutcher, a member of Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, studied music in Halifax before taking a chance to work in the archives at the Canadian Museum of History, painstakingly transcribing Wolastoq songs from 1907 wax cylinders.
“Many of the songs I had never heard before, because our musical tradition on the East Coast was suppressed by the Canadian government’s Indian Act,” he said in an APA press release promoting the Antigonish show.
Dutcher heard ancestral voices singing forgotten songs and stories that had been taken from the Wolastoqiyik generations ago.
As he listened to each recording, he said he felt his musical impulses stirring from deep within.
Long days at the archives turned into long nights at the piano, feeling out melodies and phrases, deep in dialogue with the voices of his ancestors.
These “collaborative” compositions, together on his debut LP Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, are described as “like nothing you’ve ever heard.”
Delicate, sublime vocal melodies ring out atop piano lines that cascade through a vibrant range of emotions.
The anguish and joy of the past erupt fervently into the present through Dutcher’s bold approach to composition and raw, affective performances enhanced by his outstanding tenor techniques.
“I'm doing this work because there are only about a hundred Wolastoqey speakers left,” he said.
“It’s crucial for us to make sure that we are using our language and passing it on to the next generation.
If you lose the language, you are not just losing words; you are losing an entire way of seeing and experiencing the world from a distinctly Indigenous perspective,” he added.
Dutcher, a Polaris Prize finalist and Juno Award winner, will be the latest talent to take the APA this season, one that will continue early in 2020.
Want to attend?
Following are remaining events on the Antigonish Performing Arts series schedule:
Sun., Dec. 1: Jeremy Dutcher;
Sun., Jan. 19: Duo Concertante: Nancy Dahn (violin) and Timothy Steeves (piano);
Sat., Feb. 29: Proteus Saxophone Quartet, D/A;
Sat. and Sun., Mar. 7 and 8: Susan Salm (cello) and Lynn Stodola (piano), Celebrating the Beethoven Year, a two-night marathon of Beethoven’s works for cello and piano;
Sat., Mar. 14: Paul Merkelo and Serhiy Salov, trumpet and piano, D/A;
Sat., Apr. 4: Michael Kaeshammer, boogie-woogie Jazz
(D/A indicates a Debut Atlantic presentation. For more information on those productions, visit debutatlantic.ca)
The APA schedule may be seen, with images of the performers and links to their websites, at people.stfx.ca/msteinit/schedule.htm