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Jeremy Dutcher: Where Indigenous tradition meets opera (audio)

Jeremy Dutcher won big at the East Coast Music Awards this past weekend.
Jeremy Dutcher is a classically-trained composer and opera singer and member of the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick.  
 
His debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, was inspired by Jeremy’s search for classical music that dealt with Indigenous issues or was written by Indigenous people.
 
Finding little, he decided to create it himself, so he set to work transcribing 100-year-old recordings of Wolastoq songs from old wax cylinders at the Canadian Museum of History, later transforming them into what he calls “collaborative compositions.”
 
They are gorgeous, stirring, sometimes soaring, piano-driven pieces with operatic vocals and hints of electronica, whose arrangements are clearly inspired by Jeremy’s classical training.
 
But the vocal parts, the melodies, and, one might deduce, the drum in places, such as on “Pomok Naka Poktoinskwes,” are derived from the songs found on those wax cylinders, excerpts of which Jeremy includes sometimes in the mix.  
 
Even if this were nothing more than an innovative male pop vocal album by an operatic tenor, it would tower above others in the field for the emotional punch it packs.
 
But the political significance of the work, in reclaiming a language nearly lost to government suppression – there are fewer than 100 Wolastoqey speakers left in the world, according to Jeremy’s Facebook page – renders it almost powerful beyond words. 

If you like what you hear, see Jeremy live.

Jeremy Dutcher concert dates:
  • Apr. 10 – Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts, Toronto 
  • May 11 – St. Matthew’s United Church, Halifax
  • May 25 – First Baptist Church, Ottawa
  • Jun. 9 – The Great Hall, Toronto
  • Jun. 27 – Queer Arts Festival, Vancouver
  • Jun. 30 – KIAC Ballroom, Dawson City, YK
  • Jul. 4 – Le Gesu, Montreal 

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