Indigenous group reinvents the symphony at the Winspear
Music gets people to question history, says Becca Taylor with the Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective
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A local Indigenous group is re-inventing the sounds of the symphony at the Winspear Centre Tuesday night, paying tribute to three Alberta women who aren’t in your typical history books.
Put together by Ociciwan Contemporary Art Collective, the project ‘in memoriam … ‘ features dozens of primarily Indigenous musicians singing and playing five musical scores.
“Every time they play these pieces, they sound different,” explained Becca Taylor, who’s leading the project. “We’re carrying sounds and thinking through that; we’re not reading musical notes.”
Robert Ashley, an American composer who created the first four scores in the late ‘60s, titled three of the pieces after American colonizers: John Smith, Kit Carson, and Esteban Gomez. The fourth score is named Crazy Horse, an indigenous man who was executed in late 1877 for rebelling against the government.
Each piece is intended to get listeners to question who we choose to remember and why they’re put in history books, according to Taylor.
“There hasn’t always been room to have those discussions, especially in these institutions,” she said. “We’re here to create that platform, providing a space to help these conversations and project be fostered.”
But, as part of the project, Ociciwan worked with composer Alex Waterman and group Postcommodity to come up with a fifth score. It’s titled after three Indigenous women named Mary Cecil, Victoria Callihoo (née Belcourt), and Eleanor (Helene) Thomas Garneau.
All three of them were key historical figures in Alberta, Taylor said.
“It was really hard to choose three,” she said. “There are so many incredible Indigenous women in this province, and they really helped Alberta survive through the settler period, and were champions of Indigenous rights.”
She said she hopes people leave the Winspear remembering their names.
“It’s really important to question and remember someone,” she said. “This starts that conversation and gives names to those who haven’t been given a name historically.”
The show starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, over the phone or online.