Wednesday dawns beautifully sunny in Montréal, and I make my way to the Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur, where I’ve been invited to what is described as an open rehearsal, and is really the only chance in the comparative mainstream to hear a very important, pioneering piece of work. It’s an initiative by the Montréal Symphony Orchestra, seven of whose members are on stage this morning, conducted by none other than their music director Kent Nagano. (He also conducted Mahler’s Symphony of a Thousand last night, and will do it again tonight – the stamina of leading conductors never ceases to amaze me!)
What makes today’s pieces so significant is that the composers have combined orchestral sounds with the language of the Inuit people, Inuktitut, and (most strikingly) with two Inuit throat singers, Evie Mark and Taqralik Partridge. It’s Taqralik, with whom I’ve been emailing, who invited me today. Check out her My Space page, and you’ll see she combines her Inuit identity with a very contemporary urban aesthetic – very exciting and inspiring. I’d not heard throat singing live before – it’s extraordinarily visceral, physical and elemental. The singers hold one another by the elbows, staring into each other’s eyes, and alternate their tones, which are sucked rhythmically from very deep in the body. It’s intensely powerful, highly charged, and with the music evoking tundra, it gives an incredible sense of a way of living anchored in a particular and extraordinary relationship to nature.
Tomorrow, this project flies to Nunavik: the area in the north of Québec which, although it’s about the size of