Seasons of the Sea: A Model for Reconciliation in Action
Joan Blackman curator, Seasons of the Sea
I will examine how the process and experience of creating and presenting an artistic collaboration between Western music and Indigenous Storytelling can lead to greater understanding and respect between cultures. As artistic director of Vetta Chamber music, I commissioned a cross-cultural collaborative work, Seasons of the Sea. The original concept was to create a contemporary look at the seasons on the West Coast, like a modern version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The stories, inspired by a visit to the thirteen Coast Salish moon calendar stones at Crescent Beach, circle through the changing seasons and confront crucial issues like climate change, the dying fishing industry, and the way of life of the Coast Salish people before and after colonisation. When composer Jeffrey Ryan, Coast Salish/Sahtu Dene storyteller Rosemary Georgeson and I workshopped this piece, we quickly realised that the way the music and words evolved to embrace each other was a powerful metaphor for Reconciliation.
We have already presented the work and held public workshops. The stories and music adapt to the people listening, incorporating stories from different territories. Elders have expressed enthusiasm and support for this project, calling it “deep, speaking to the soul” or “reconciliation in action”. However, we have only just begun the work of engaging and connecting with First Nations communities and meeting with Elders, learning more about protocol. In order to further and deepen these relationships, I will consult with the rich Indigenous resources at UVIC, with Rosemary as my guide. Eventual implementation plans include the development of a school program for Aboriginal schools, filming the work as a documentary, and presenting it throughout coastal BC.
We all have much to learn through the collaboration process. First Nations culture values partnership, respect, sharing and adaptability. The structure of Seasons of the Sea reflects these values, and the wholistic understanding of nature as a cycle. Rather than enmeshing the two disciplines, music and text are complementary, respecting the integrity of each culture. I will show how this collaboration can be a model for building respectful bridges between Indigenous and Western culture, an example of Reconciliation in action.