Cultural Conversations








Next offered: Tuesday, September 24, 2019
Free event. Registration information below.

Join us September 24 in Vancouver for a Cultural Conversation: The Huron Carol hosted by Elektra Women’s Choir.

Many choral leaders are wondering whether to teach and perform the iconic and beloved Huron Carol. Elektra Women’s Choir invites indigenous and non-indigenous musicians, composers, music presenters, and choral educators to a presentation and discussion.

The evening opens with a presentation entitled “The Huron Carol: The Construction of a Canadian Musical Icon” which explores the origins of what is believed to be “Canada’s first Christmas carol” by ethnomusicologist, Dr. Jeanette Gallant (D.Phil. Oxford). Following this will be an informal discussion of considerations around teaching the carol in classrooms and performing the work in public. Our discussion facilitator will be Shelley MacDonald, National First Nations, Métis and Inuit Programs Leader, Learning Through the Arts.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019  7pm – 9pm
Fireside Room, Unitarian Church of Vancouver, 949 West 49th Ave. Vancouver, V5Z 2T1
Free registration. Light snacks provided.
Space is limited. Advance notice of your attendance helps us plan. You will receive a confirmation that we are holding a spot for you.
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Dr. Gallant’s presentation: “The Huron Carol: The Construction of a Canadian Musical Icon”.

Abstract: In this era of Truth and Reconciliation in Canada, choral musicians are grappling with the question: “Is it okay to do arrangements of the Huron Carol”? Some educators feel that it is necessary to program this piece to encourage conversation and learning. Others fear that the piece either has been culturally appropriated, or that singing it would be disrespectful to Canada’s First Nations communities. To what extent is our lack of understanding about the song’s history driving these competing concerns?

The story of the Huron Carol was first published in French by Ernest Myrand at the end of the nineteenth century and has long since been the song’s accepted history, even in English Canada. Believed to be composed in the 1640s by Jesuit priest, Jean de Brebéuf, this song has been deemed Canada’s ‘first’ Christmas carol because it was written to teach the Huron-Wendat people the story of Jesus’s birth. But, is there another story behind the story? Who are the architects behind the creation of this Canadian musical icon, and are these players indigenous, non-indigenous, or both?

To answer these questions, this presentation will look at three things: the missionization and colonization of  the Huron-Wendat of Wendake, Québec; the trajectory of the song’s text as it changed in different contexts; and the history of the melody in relation to processes of nationalism and the nineteenth- and twentieth-century folksong movements. Participants will leave with not only a clear understanding of the song’s history and social context, but helpful tools in assessing its suitability in future programming.

Previous Cultural Conversations

On January 31, 2019, Elektra hosted a presentation by ethnomusicologist, Dr. Jeanette Gallant (D.Phil. Oxford), on indigenous borrowings in Australian composer Sarah Hopkins’s iconic 1991 choral composition, Past Life Melodies.  The evening opened with a greeting and song by Elder Nx’ketko of the Ntle’kepmx Nation, one of five Interior Salish tribes in central B.C. This was followed by an informal discussion about similar issues in our current, Canadian context. Our discussion facilitator was Shelley MacDonald, National First Nations, Métis and Inuit Programs Leader, Learning Through the Arts.      Past Life Melodies presentation abstract

Elektra’s Cultural Conversations series is intended to build networks and open fruitful conversation around respectful, informed, and inclusive cross-cultural collaboration in our community.