Tomson Highway project, Songs in the Key of Cree, visits Brandon

May 16, 2019

BRANDON – Acclaimed Cree playwright Tomson Highway’s latest project will come to Brandon University’s (BU’s) Evans Theatre on Tuesday, June 11 as part of a Manitoba tour.

Songs in the Key of Cree, written and composed by Highway, is a new country and western musical theatre project being developed by the Manitoba-born artist.

Songs in the Key of Cree posterThe show follows the aspirations of Lynx Lamour, a young Cree woman from sub-Arctic Manitoba, who goes out into the world to sing her heart out. Against all odds, she achieves her dreams. The world falls in love and will never be the same.

Songs in the Key of Cree includes 12 original songs written in Cree and performed by Highway on piano, vocalist Krystle Pederson and a band that includes Lancelot Knight, Brodie Parachoniak, Liam Allan, Nathan Halcrow and Andrina Turenne.

The Brandon show begins at 8 p.m., and tickets cost $20 for general admission, or $10 for students. They are available online through Brown Paper Tickets at BrownPaperTickets.com/event/4229521

Now in its second year, the show is touring Manitoba this spring. In association with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Song in the Key of Cree has been developed into a cabaret-style format. The show will tour the province, with performances in Grand Rapids (May 27), Opaskwayak/The Pas (May 29), Norway House (May 31), Cross Lake (June 3), Nishichawayashihk/Nelson House (June 4), Thompson (June 6), Brochet (June 7) and Brandon (June 11) before its tour finale, June 13, in Winnipeg at the Tom Hendry Warehouse Theatre.

Songs in the Key of Cree has been developed through engagements in First Nations communities, and is being presented in Canada’s theatres and community halls. It is being developed over the course of three years, from 2018 to 2020, through a series of theatre residencies, community engagements, and artistic collaborations in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario.

In 2018, the project focused on the creation and performance of 12 new Cree songs, developed in Saskatoon with the support of the Gordon Tootoosis Nikaniwin Theatre. The group toured these songs to several Saskatchewan communities. The song lyrics are written entirely in Cree and the text in the show is in English with Cree.

In Cree, the project connects ashinoowin, ayamoowin, and paapoowin (story telling, language, laughter). Building on the talents and expertise of Indigenous knowledge holders and speakers, the project incorporates community-based research into the history of language loss and revitalization and contributes to the development of new multi-media language and cultural materials. With the community-based activities that accompany the project—including radio airplay, a documentary film, beading workshops, digital language lessons, multi-media stories and oral histories—the goal is to highlight the global importance of Indigenous languages.

Songs in the Key of Cree is partnering with a number of Indigenous organizations at the forefront of language revitalization efforts in Canada. These valuable partners include the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre in Saskatoon (SICC), the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC) in Winnipeg, and the Ojibway and Cree Cultural Centre (OCCC) in Timmins, Ont. Other institutional partners include Brandon University, the University of Waterloo and Guelph University.

For more information on the project, visit SongsInTheKeyOfCree.ca.

Tickets for the June 6 performance in Thompson are available at the Thompson Regional Community Centre or at the door the night of the show. Tickets for the June 13 Winnipeg performance are $25 and are available at BrownPaperTickets.com/event/4203989. All are welcome to the shows in in First Nationals communities at no charge.

Accompanying the tour will be Bighetty & Bighetty Puppets, who will perform with the show as well as promote it in advance. YouTube.com/watch?v=K9ixU39eAZw&t=505s