The Montreal Symphony Orchestra toured Northern Quebec with their Chaakapesh: The Trickster’s Quest opera in September. Here, they perform in Kuujjuarapik, Nunavik. © Jean-Marc Abela

Members of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra travelled to Northern Quebec in September to bring their new tragic/comic opera, Chaakapesh: The Trickster’s Quest to audiences from Nunavik to Eeyou Istchee, to Nitassinan.

Throat singers (L to R: Mary Pootoo and Akinisie
Sivuarapik) perform at the Salluit, Nunavik, concert, as Kent Nagano, music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, centre, looks on. © Jean-Marc Abela

A collaboration between composer Matthew Ricketts and author Tomson Highway, the performance includes artists from multiple cultures in this region, including five linguistic groups: Cree, Innu, Inuktitut, French and English. It is a Cree origins myth with a universal message of love that hints at an imagined peaceful future within this nation of nations. Inspired by an Innu legend, it teaches us that we are here on Earth to laugh and to live in harmony with our planet.

Depending on which community the orchestra was in, the opera was narrated in Inuktitut by throat singer Akinisie Sivuarapik, in Cree by film producer Ernie Webb or in Innu by singer-songwriter Florent Vollant.

At each stop of the tour, a local Indigenous artist joined the orchestra on stage to perform as well. For example, in Kuujjuarapik, guest performers were Inuit throat-singer Linda Kowcharlie and Cree fiddler Eric Shashamash. In Oujé-Bougoumou, young cellist Kelly Cooper and narrator Ernest Webb joined the ensemble.

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