Nunavik and Northern Quebec

Nunavik and Northern Quebec

Montreal, September 20, 2018 — The OSM and Kent Nagano just returned today from an eleven-day tour of Northern Quebec. Ten years after travelling to Nunavik to perform Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale in Inuktitut, the Orchestra and its conductor headed northward once again to perform CHAAKAPESH, THE TRICKSTER’S QUEST for audiences in six different Indigenous communities. Capacity audiences filled each concert venue, children and adults alike, while rewarding educational and community activities added to these inspiring and inspired encounters. The OSM’s excursion to Nunavik and Quebec’s Far North was filled with special moments of exchange and sharing.

“Finally, we look inward with a new work, as much a contemporary tribute to the sounds, people and traditions of our own land as Rite and Boléro were in their time. Chaakapesh by Ricketts and Highway is the fruit of a collaboration across five linguistic groups including Cree, Innu, Inuktitut, French and English, involving artists from the multiple cultures that call this land home.”
Kent Nagano

Marking a successful collaboration between Indigenous artists and the OSM, CHAAKAPESH, THE TRICKSTER’S QUEST, a collaboration between composer Matthew Ricketts and author Tomson Highway, met with hearty applause at its world premiere at the Maison symphonique on the OSM’s 85th season opening concerts in Montreal on September 6 and 8. The OSM and Kent Nagano then took the work on tour to KUUJJUAQ, SALLUIT, KUUJJUARAPIK, OUJÉ-BOUGOUMOU, MASHTEUIATSH, and UASHAT MAK MANI-UTENAM from September 9 to 19, performing the tragicomic chamber opera for audiences of three Indigenous nations: Inuit, Innu, and Cree.

With the creative contributions of local artists from each community visited, the concert was given in each of the languages spoken in the areas visited. Florent Vollant, Akinisie Sivuarapik, and Ernest Webb took turns narrating the opera—in Innu, Inuktitut, and Cree respectively—while Geoffroy Salvas (baritone) and Owen McCausland (tenor) performed their roles in Cree. The opera’s libretto was written by Tomson Highway with an orchestral score by Matthew Ricketts, and the production was staged by Charles Dauphinais. CHAAKAPESH, THE TRICKSTER’S QUEST is inspired by an Innu legend that teaches us that we are here on Earth to laugh and to live in harmony with our planet.

As a child I would plead to my mother to tell me one of my favourite legends, Chaakapash, before going to bed. Often she would refrain since the adventures of Chaakapash is an epic tale. I never thought I would hear the story narrated in Inuktitut accompanied by an opera score.
Joshua Kawapit (Whapmigoustui-Kuujjuarapik)


Building on the idea of music as a medium to communicate between cultures, languages and borders, this emotion-filled tour was more than just a series of performances for OSM musicians and Maestro Kent Nagano. It was the opportunity to meet and to share, to listen and to learn. The musicians reached out and were warmly welcomed by the public, local creators, numerous students and community leaders. One after the other, unforgettable moments unfolded. Here is a summary of this wonder-filled northern journey…

For the very first performance of CHAAKAPESH, THE TRICKSTER’S QUEST in KUUJJUAQ on September 10, the community’s newly built church was filled to absolute capacity with over 400 audience members of all ages. Earlier in the day, OSM musicians and conductor met with 300 enthusiastic students as they took part in educational activities, followed by a group activity with some 30 teenagers. When André Moisan improvised on clarinet while Maestro Nagano recounted a Japanese fable illustrating the power of storytelling through music, one could literally hear a pin drop! The tour continued to SALLUIT on September 12, and it was with the utmost enthusiasm and with open arms that schoolchildren welcomed the musicians to their community. Each child had crafted a conductor’s baton with their teacher, and one barely 5-year-old youngster got up on stage to conduct the musicians! As was the case for all the communities visited on the tour, conductor and musicians lent themselves to the obligatory autographs and selfies after the concert!

One of our traditions is storytelling, and telling of legends. And so, using the orchestra and using the operatic genre, it’s a new way of expressing ourselves… To be able to work with the orchestra and with the Maestro, it’s such an honour, especially doing this story. It’s as if we’re bringing it [Chaakapesh] home.
Ernest Webb, film producer and Cree narrator for Chaakapesh

Kuujjuaq –  september 10

Salluit –  september 12

Kuujjuarapik – september 14

Oujé-Bougoumou – september 17

Mashteuiatsh –  septembre 18

Uashat mak Mani-Utenam –  september 19