Saturday, April 30, 2011

11 - Song

I'm taking a break from atrocities and looking to something more dear to my heart. Music. I am a musician. A singer to be specific. I teach music and have studied classical music for many years, although I love all kinds of music. My studies in the field are what brought me away from Nova Scotia and to the Boston area. In addition to my classical training, I have a passion for folk songs. I have been collecting them since childhood and love the stories, the tremendous beauty of the simplicity in them. I love exploring collections, listening to singers, and the great excitement of finding a song that compells me to sing it for years to come. I don't sing many arias these days, but I often sing from my collection of folk songs which I have gathered over the years. I find that these songs often reveal another layer of the people who create them. Layers that history text books don't reach. Music has the power to express what cannot be put into words because there is usually a close connection to emotion. It expresses those things that cannot only be heard, but felt within memory and the soul.

Needless to say, I am itching to get to the songs. I decided that I would start by listening to some singers since I have no one here to teach me songs. (I am working to remedy this situation.) I have decided to start in Eskasoni with the Denny family. For anyone who may not be familiar with Eskasoni, it is a reserve located on the beautiful Bras d'Or lakes in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. It is the largest reserve in the province. I am told that we are related to some Dennys from this very place. My great grandfather's sister, Margaret Ann Young from Bras d'Or, married a man named Charles (Charlie) Denny from Eskasoni, and he is godfather to my grandmother's brother John Charles Young. His son, Kevin, is the person who has done so much research for us on our family tree. Perhaps someday we will have the opportunity to meet their descendants. I am linking a site from the community here:

The Dennys are well known singers in the Mi'kmaq community and I had come across a song by Sarah Denny, many years ago, long before my search began. When I first heard her sing, I remember being very moved by what I was hearing, so I went in search of her for my blog. There is currently a cultural center named in her honor on the Eskasoni reserve. From what I have read, she was a firm believer in preserving the language, songs and dance of the Mi'kmaq people. (Thank you Sarah for this!) Here is one that I think is particularly beautiful. Whoever posted it did a nice job with the video, which contains many pictures, some of which are of her and her family.

The caption on the you tube site states:
Sarah Denny Singing I'ko to the Elders that have passed on. Also, the dancers she co-ordinated all her life and her children, grand children and great grandchildren.

The other singer whose songs I have been listening to is Sarah Denny's son, Joel Denny. He first came to my attention in a video by Mi'kmaq film maker Catherine Martin. He and his mother were featured in one of her films called Mi'kmaq Family (Migmaoei Otjioseg). He is also on You Tube singing many songs. Many of these songs are in the Mi'kmaq language, which is fantastic to hear. I understand there are a very large number of speakers of the language at Eskasoni. There has been a push to revive the language after the devastating effects the Residential Schools had in stripping so many Mi'kmaq of their language and culture. Here is an original Joel Denny song in Mi'kmaq.

The caption from You tube reads:This Is what's Happening Today. This song is the concern about youth losing their Cultures all over the world. Kiskuk Na Teliaq song in Mi'kmaq on location Eskasoni NS Canada.

I'll leave it at that and let the songs speak for themselves.

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