Published Aug 19, 2018Despite walking out to a mostly empty room, by the time Jeremy Dutcher reached the archival duet at the bottom of set opener "Mehicinut," the front of the stage had been silently filled. It wasn't until Dutcher completed the piece that their presence was even registered, but it would have been hard to miss, given all the delighted applause.
That dynamic persisted throughout the night, as Dutcher continued to present selections from last year's Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa and the space between songs became opportunities to place pieces like "Oqiton" ("the song for the canoe") within the context of the ongoing boil water advisories faced by 75 First Nations communities and rally for solidarity and advocacy while emphasizing the role memory plays in the survival of culture.
Feeling comfortable with the level of respect in the air, Dutcher ended the night enlisting the audience's help in providing the drone choir underlying the a cappella dirge of "Koselwintuwakon," before capping it all off back at the grand for the haunting, tumbling dissonance of "Pomok naka Poktoinskwes." He sang the final lines into the grand's interior, magnificent tenor extended and amplified with the piano's reverb, the voices of ancestors past and ally communities present made loud and enormous with it, overtaking an implement of a colonial culture that — through privileging certain traditions over others — continues to participate in the erasure of these voices, and perhaps better articulating something Dutcher noted earlier in an aside: "We're still singing, we're still dancing, and we're still here."