Sunday, February 8, 2009

Vancouver Songlines

Nikamon Ohci Askiy
(Songs Because of the Land)

Cheryl l'Hirondelle is one of my favourite artists. She is a singer and a media artist currently based in Vancouver. (Lucky for us!) Her mother is from the Cree nation and the Cree world view informs her work. Yesterday I went to the launch of her CD and DVD at the Celebration Hall in Mountainview Cemetery. We were treated to a walk-through the web site projected on a screen, and Cheryl and her band sang the songs on the CD. It started out as a grey spring day, but the sun came out as Cheryl began to talk to us. She was introduced by Glenn Alteen, who curated the project. The director of the Push festival also gave his round of thanks before Cheryl got on stage and gave her thanks to all the people involved, explaining that the value of gratitude was very important to her. Cease Wyss performed the opening song on behalf of the Skwxumesh Nation. Cease explained that the graveyard was one special place of peace in the heart of the city where people of all cultures come to honour the ancestors. Special guests included the "Jury from Surrey," a group of about seven elementary school students who were attending the show in order to give their feedback on the event within the context of the rest of the Push Festival.

Cheryl's project has a performance component and an interactive web component. For her performance, Cheryl walked and sang her way around an area of Vancouver. She wanted to sing to homeless people, to give them something for free, the gift of her voice. Through the project she was also able to give them some much-needed money. She also wanted to create songlines, mapping the city with her voice. As Cheryl sang her way around Vancouver she recorded some of her conversations and the ambient sounds. You can access these sounds through the website and even add your own found sounds. The songs she sang were created in the process of walking through her old neighbourhood, near Kits beach. She walked and sang into her cell phone so she would remember the songs. She drew inspiration from the land and from Hildegarde Westecamp's sound walks around Vancouver.

One of my favorite songs is The Great Giveway. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. If you go to Cheryl's Myspace page you can hear the song, which is about letting go of everything you don't need in order to find peace and healing. When Cheryl sings, it is straight from the heart with great depth of emotion. It takes a brave soul to make oneself so vulnerable. During the event we were all given a free copy of the CD and DVD. Thank you Cheryl!

Cheryl's Bio from Myspace:
"Cheryl L' Hirondelle is one unique and much sought after multi-disciplinary artist and musician from this land now known as Canada. A mixed-blood (Metis/Cree-non status/treaty, French, German, Polish) originally from Alberta, her creative practice investigates the junction of a Cree worldview in contemporary time and space with projects that spans a wide array of disciplines including: music, performance art, storytelling, spoken word, theatre, audio art, installation, public art and new media."

Currently 6 degrees Celsius and cloudy.

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