In an age of American Idol and almost pre-fab music learning, it was refreshing to take a more in-depth look at another spirit of cultural learning and exploration.
By Mackenzie Kristjon Jenkyns
Published November 23, 2015
Spirit of the Narrows is rather accurately described as "one woman's journey into the world of Aboriginal fiddling". Not knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to meet creator Anne Lederman upon walking in and learning that this production would have something to do with Manitoba. Given that I'm born and raised in various communities in Manitoba, I was already entranced.
SOTN ultimately focuses on the transmission of musical heritage through community. In an age of American Idol and almost pre-fab music learning, it was refreshing to take a more in-depth look at another spirit of cultural learning and exploration.
In particular, Anne's play delves into the almost Corner Gas-esque Western Canadian Metis fiddling traditions of Grandy Fagnan and others. Anne came across this fellow who was stomping his feet and fiddling away in what was -to her ears- a quite unusual way. This chance encounter caused her to learn more about the history of the area, these tunes, and the different tunings that were employed in Dauphin, Manitoba.
The music is a prairie melting pot of Ojibwa, Cree, Scottish, French, English, American, and European traditions. I almost expected to be served pemmican and bannock while there, and when we sang a tune that celebrates Manitoba, I could imagine the bison roaming around.
Capucine Onn plays the young Anne and provides a foil as almost the "straight man" for the expressive voices of the community that are channeled through the real life Anne who has clearly absorbed many of the accents and idiosyncrasies of rural Manitoba, often portrayed to hilarious effect. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine I was with some older Native Manitoban men and not a classy woman who lives in Toronto!
Since this production is about music, it must be noted how fun and skillful the music really was. Anne is an expert fiddler who was a founding member of various groups including The Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band, has five records under her own name, and performed at countless festivals, concerts, and schools across North America and Europe.
She is predominantly known for her work in traditional Manitoban fiddle music. Capucine Onn is similarly gifted on the fiddle and teaches Suzuki violin in Toronto.
The set was sparse but gave the feeling of being at a country hoedown with minimal accents. Similarly, the lighting was simple and with striking bursts. Those who have been to the Pearl already know that Gary Santucci has a flair for simple elegance in lighting that accentuates the mood.
Recommended for those who love music, fiddle, Manitoba, and good times.
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