Labrador choral traditions celebrated
An ancient singing tradition and a north-south choral encounter will be the subject of a documentary film currently being shot on Labrador’s north coast.
Choral Traditions of the Labrador Inuit is a project developed by Memorial University’s School of Music in collaboration with the Moravian Church of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Nunatsiavut Government.
It consists of a series of musical encounters between the church and community choirs in Nain, Makkovik, Hopedale and Happy Valley-Goose Bay with a group of musicians from the island.
Timed to coincide with the liturgical season surrounding Easter, the project brought the St. John’s-based musicians into each community for several days to share in rehearsals and performances with community musicians and culminated in a large choral celebration coinciding with the Easter Monday celebrations in Hopedale.
The whole project was documented by filmmaker Nigel Markham and CBC radio producer Francesca Swann for future broadcast.
The traditions of choral singing in coastal Labrador have a long and unique history. Soon after the arrival of the missionaries, the Labrador Inuit began singing the complex Moravian music of the 18th century with great accomplishment. Before the end of the 19th century Inuit musicians had assumed stewardship for a distinctive and indigenous musical tradition of choral singing with string orchestra, as well as brass bands.
Generations of Inuit organists and choirmasters have preserved and refined that tradition which is rooted in a compelling practice of congregational choral singing. And from April 15-28 this year, they shared that tradition with the members of the Innismara Vocal Ensemble, together with a St. John’s-based string quartet and brass quintet.
In each community the visiting musicians will had opportunity to rehearse with and learn from local musicians, coming together for community celebrations in portions of the Easter services, as well as community concerts.
The Choral Traditions project has been developed by choral conductor Kellie Walsh with Tim Borlase and Tom Gordon.
Innismara is a vocal chamber ensemble comprised of professional and professionally trained singers, dedicated to the performance of the hidden treasures of the vocal ensemble repertoire.
Under the artistic direction of Kellie Walsh, Innismara made its debut in the summer of 2010 at the Minstrels and Muses Festival held in conjunction with the Cupids 400 celebrations.
Documenting the project will fall to Nigel Markham, a film-maker with a long-time interest in Labrador.
His 1985 documentary Last Days of Okak retold the tragedy of the 1919 decimation of this Labrador Inuit community from the Spanish flu epidemic.
Mr. Markham has since produced several other documentaries on the Labrador Inuit, including two films on the Hebron resettlement. A radio documentary for CBC will also be created from this tour.
The Choral Traditions project visited Nain from April 15-20, Makkovik from April 20-23, and Hopedale from April 23-26.
Its final stop was Happy Valley-Goose Bay from April 26-28.