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Forging a bond between generations
By Alan Dicknoether

A new bridge capable of spanning the generational divide was built on the night of October 30, in the small northern Nunavik community of Salluit. Acclaimed singer, songwriter, Elisapie (Elisapee Isaac) returned to her hometown of Salluit, Quebec, on that day.The purpose of her visit was to join in celebrating the community’s wealth of music talent and to help strengthen the bond between youth and elders.

This very first edition of Talentshow Salluit (a take-off from the America’s Got Talent series) proved to be an immediate success. Virtually the entire community turned out to see a total of 20 musicians and show contestants from three different generations step into the limelight to share their musical talents and promote a dialogue among the generations.

While there, Elisapie also had the opportunity to mentor some of the aspiring singers before their performances. She helped by passing along professional tips on stage presence, fighting nervousness on stage and vocal projection. Betsy Koperqualuk, a singer and drummer followed her advice and it worked. Betsy beat out all the other contestants to become the evening’s overall winner of the Talentshow. She, along with two runners-up, Vilisi Pinguatuq and Calai Padlayat each won a free flight to Montreal and tickets to see a Montreal Canadiens hockey game — all from a private box.

After her weekend in Montreal, Betsy commented, “I worked very hard practicing my drumming and I was very happy to win Talentshow Salluit, and get to go to Montreal. For sure I will enter next year and I will play even better. I really like to play music!”

A total of 18 different musical acts that ranged from gospel music to the modern rap musings of Larry Thomassiah, who’s original composition spoke of the problems that modern youth face today, all the way to include traditional Inuit throat-singing of Calai Padlayat and Charlotte Angnatuk. The entertaining pair would one moment test and the next encourage each other during their performance, pushing the pace, or changing up the tenor until one or both of them would start to laugh.

The local portion of the show ended with an impromptu invitation to the members of the Sugluk Band to come up on stage and play a couple of songs for the crowd. The band is Salluit’s original rock-group (formed before Salluit was recognized as a village). At one time during one of its earlier incarnations the band featured a 12-year-old Elisapee Isaac as its back-up singer.

A highlight in the evening beyond the excellent performances by contestants during the four hour show came when Elisapie, Koperqualuk and members of Sugluk joined together on stage to sing a song that offers advice to young people. A powerful moment of the show, it had many in the crowd either roaring with excitement or welling up with tears as they witnessed the past, present and future of Salluit join together in song on stage, to high – light the bond shared by all in the community.

“Singers like Betsy represent the next generation of Nunavimmiut and the influence of positive role models such as Elisapie and the Sugluk Band can have a dramatic effect on their lives,” said Barbara Grant, one of the Coordinators of the show. Grant put in long hours with many of the contestants practicing their songs and working out arrangements.

Elisapie, a Juno winner, performed twice during the evening selecting songs from her first CD, ”There Will Be Stars,” and her latest, “Travelling Love,” released last year. Her song called “Salluit,” from her latest CD, drew a rousing round of applause from the audience.

Talentshow Salluit is the brainchild of Emmanuel Morin, a local social worker who recognized the need to create new avenues for dialogue between the youth and elders of Salluit. He found that all generations shared a love of music and decided to use that as a vehicle to promote the importance of communication, understanding, and respect between the generations. A musician himself, Morin decided to combine his skills as a social worker, and his love for music into the project.

“One of the goals of this project was to bring the youth and the community together. The youth here have something to say and
they need a way to express themselves. They also need to connect with the community and the elders,“ Morin said.

Beginning in April, he solicited funding from a variety of organizations such as Air Inuit, The village of Salluit, Raglan Mine, and Pivallianiq and began spreading the word through local radio, posters and social media. Instruments, P.A. equipment, all had to be purchased for the Talentshow well in advance so that they could be used for practice and rehearsals. Ikusik High School, with a student population of 205 students, was eager to get on board with the project providing some funding as well as being fertile ground for most of the talent participating in the show.

“Our school was eager to support the event because a project like this can have a very positive effect on the student population as well. All over the school you could feel the excitement in the days before and after the show. You only had to read the comments on Facebook to realize the immense pride that the students and the community had in participating in this project,” said Bernard Lefebvre, Ikusik principal. “We were also fortunate to receive some autographed CDs and posters from Elisapie for our recognition awards program at the school,” he added. Elisapie is a graduate of Ikusik High School.

“A show like this could not have been done without the support of the teachers and the school community,” Morin emphasized, adding, “Several teachers embraced the project and provided many volunteer hours helping with fundraising and administrative duties, working with the contestants and backup musicians and taking photographs. A guitar club was created to teach guitar to some participants, students created the banner under the direction of the art teacher, slide shows and videos were created. Many, many people worked very hard to put this together. Local musicians really came through to help out and make this a success.”

One of those local musicians, guitarist Quincy Quananack, put in many hours learning all the songs as well as promoting the show within the community in the early stages. He will take over the reins for next year’s show. “I look forward to building on the momentum that this year’s show has created,” he said.

The effects of this year’s Talentshow Salluit will continue to be felt as the village has supplied a small building that will house the sound system and instruments. This will be a practice hall that will continue to support local talent in preparation for next year’s talent show. Also, a music performance has been added to the presentation portion of COMMUNITY the regional science-expo being held in Salluit in late February.

As for the future, plans are already in motion for a repeat in 2014 and if organizers have their way, the popular event may be expanded to include musicians and performers from across the Nunavik region and to make it a weekend long event.