The BCO closed our 2016/17 season with the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. What better way to celebrate Canada 150 than with a concert showcasing Canadian compositions. We  featured contemporary pieces by Canadian composers, taking their rightful place alongside international classical repertoire.

The highlight of this concert was the premiere of Northwestern Passages, a new composition commissioned from Manitoba composer Chris Byman for this occasion.  The piece is in two movements: I. From Sea to Sea, and II. They Desire a Better Country.

Northwestern Passages was written to commemorate Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation, as a testament to our strength, pride, and freedoms as Canadians. The movement titles are taken from the motto and order found on our Canadian Coat of Arms which are further borrowed from passages of biblical scripture (respectively Psalm 72:8 and Hebrews 11:16).

The first movement attempts to depict Canada’s hardened inception, i.e. pre-colonialist explorations, the pioneering of the fur traders, establishment of the first colonies, and the first settlers and agriculturalists. As a repercussion of these actions, the movement also explores the themes of exploitation, suppression, segregation and assimilation of First Nations peoples – a shattering consequence and wound that is still hemorrhaging and healing over 150 years later. The musical motives used here are exploratory, slow and insidiously morphed to create darker textures. The movement also uses a well-over-300-year-old French-Canadian folksong “V’là l’bon vent”, a song sung by the Voyageurs and Coureurs des Bois as the travelled the nation east to west, from sea to sea, in search of the fruits and fortunes of a new world.

The second movement encapsulates the feeling of one day finding a true north. As the first movement came to terms with our past, this movement hopes for a sustainable and reconciliatory future.The music in this movement is yearning, hopeful, rhythmic, nomadically shifting, and teeming with life, all the while paying homage to the form and melody of Rogers’ Northwest Passage, the unofficial national anthem or Canada.

Thanks to our special guests, the Suzuki String Orchestra conducted by Robert Richardson Jr.


© 2017 Brandon Symphony Orchestra Association