Going Home Star

GOING HOME STAR: Truth and Reconciliation. Ballet score in two acts for native singers (Tanya Tagaq, Steve Wood & The Northern Cree Singers), orchestra (2,2,2,2— 4, 3, 3, 1—hrp, keyboard, timp., 3 perc.—strings) and electronics. Commissioned by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet under the auspices of the Canadian Truth and Reconcilliation Commission. Duration: 100 minutes.

GOING HOME STAR creative team:

Choreography by Mark Godden
Story by Joseph Boyden
Music by Christos Hatzis
(pre-recorded artists: Tanya Tagaq & The Northern Cree Signers)
Costume Design by Paul Daigle
Set Design by KC Adams
Lighting Design by Pierre Lavoie
Projection Design by Sean Nieuwenhuis
Associate Producer: Tina Keeper
Choreography assisted by CindyMarie Small

For the Synopsis of the story, click HERE.

For the newsletter after the premiere, click HERE.

Royal Winnipeg Ballet
(Photos by Samantha Katz)

Premiere performance: October 1, 2014. Tanya Tagaq; Steve Wood & The Northern Cree Singers; The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Tadeusz Biernacki. Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg, MB.

Reviews and Comments:

The choreographer [of GOING HOME STAR] is aided by celebrated composer Christos Hatzis’s organic score. In fact, the music for Going Home Star may be the best ballet composition ever created in Canada. Part live orchestra, part tape, with the collaboration of the magnificent Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq and the exciting powwow rituals of the Northern Cree Singers, Hatzis’s score embraces the story like hand to glove. His musical detail evokes each scene perfectly, whether the disco frenzy of Annie’s nightclub, or the symphonic sweep of the grandeur of the northern woods, or the gentle harmonies of the Elders. Hatzis has created a cascade of musical images that bring the characters and the story to life. It is in the score that imagination lives. - Paula Citron, The Globe & Mail (Oct 03, 2014)

Christos Hatzis’s tour-de-force score [GOING HOME STAR] viscerally integrates contributions from recent Polaris Prize-winning Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra superbly led by Tadeusz Biernacki. The Toronto-based composer’s multi-layered, electro-acoustic score is a game-changer. Mangled hymn tunes bleed into Tagaq’s guttural vocalizations, and it even pays a sly nod to Swan Lake as Annie flies through the air in her dreams. - Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press (Oct 02, 2014)

Wow! Phenomenal! This is a masterpiece! . . . I find it breathtaking, an extraordinarily powerful, moving, and beautiful work. . . I am very happy that a subject matter of such profound importance and relevance to Canadians has received such a stellar musical and artistic treatment. David Dalle, CKCU-FM, Ottawa.

It is a terrific score, and the playing by the Winnipeg Symphony is excellent. American Record Guide

The richly textured, eclectic cinematic score by veteran Toronto composer Christos Hatzis furnished for the ballet Going Home Star – Truth and Reconciliation for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet was premiered in October 2014 to considerable audience and critical acclaim. This impressive work is a superimposition of at least three culturally defined layers. Hatzis directly quotes and echoes sections of iconic 20th-century European ballets Rite of Spring, Swan Lake and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. In addition Christian liturgical chorales, medieval chant and dance music by Jean-Baptiste Lully are all skillfully reworked in Hatzis’ characteristic tonal-centric style. To this he adds elements in multiple vernacular music genres, as well as acoustic and electronic soundscapes, diffused from the studio-produced digital audio track. Another significant layer of this 2-CD musical journey is the contribution of North American indigenous voices. They are essential texts in this narrative centred on the suffering imposed on children in Canada’s infamous Indian residential schools – with musical detours into the early contact between Europeans and First Nation peoples – ending with the possibility of personal and intercultural redemption and reconciliation. Based on a story by Joseph Boyden, the ballet score is given a human voice by the extraordinary Polaris Prize-winning Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq, in the last scene’s Morning Song eloquently performed by the Cree singer Steve Wood and through the pow-wow energy of the Northern Cree Singers infusing a visceral power into several scenes. Is Going Home Star “the most important dance mounted by the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in its illustrious 75 year history,” as described by one CBC TV commentator? Hatzis’ cumulatively moving, highly eclectic score compels me to see Mark Godden’s choreography and to find out how this important national story plays out on stage. I invite my fellow Canadians to join me on this journey during the RWB’s upcoming 2016 national tour. Andrew Timar, the WholeNote.

The music by Christos Hatzis [GOING HOME STAR] is richly layered, borrowing from aboriginal sources as well as European ones. It is worth noting that Tanya Tagaq, the Polaris-winning throat singer, and Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers perform on stage, in addition to being present in the score. There are also echoes of other classical ballets in the RWB repertoire, including Rite of Spring, Swan Lake and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. It’s as if Hatzis wants to remind us that the story being told here is musical as well as historical. - Robert Enright, CBC News Review (Oct 02, 2014)

It’s an ambitious and elaborate work, which transcends genres and cultural boundaries, merging the talents of Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, Cree songwriter Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, led by conductor Tadeusz Biernacki. In combining the musical styles of various eras – including ballet, swing, disco, and dub step – Hatzis has created something novel yet familiar, which communicates a pan-cultural message of reconciliation and healing, but also speaks directly to Canada’s troubled past. A powerful and important work. – Chris Morgan, Scene Magazine, March 10 – April 6, 2016, p. 21 http://www.scenemagazine.com/uploads/2/4/1/8/24189503/web749.pdf

The complex collaboration of Metis author Joseph Boyden, Inuk singer Tanya Tagaq and the Northern Cree Singers with Greek-Canadian composer Christos Hatzis and choreographer Mark Godden marks a distinct moment in intercultural arts creation (Hatzis addresses the anxiety he felt and the solutions he sought in creating a work based on Indigenous histories and characters in the CD liner notes). . . the creative and impactful integration of Indigenous music, such as Tanya Tagaq’s throat singing, Northern Cree Singers’ powwow songs and Steve Wood’s Cree “Morning Song” at key moments, alongside recorded and live orchestral music, allows listeners to consider the dialogue and musical sharing that is enacted in this work. . . Going Home Star is a powerful ballet that, in live performance, is aesthetically pleasing in its uncomplicated yet symbolic sets, beautiful choreography, dramatic story and complex, yet accessible music. . . One of the most compelling juxtapositions of various musics is in scene 2 of act 2, “I got to build my fire up.” Identified as the beginning of reconciliation in the ballet, symphonic music is juxtaposed with Tagaq’s vocalizations, Woods’ and Tagaq’s oration of Boyden’s text, the music of Jean-Baptiste Lully, and the Cree “Treaty Song” sung by Wood. A musical and textual representation of imagined first encounters between Indigenous peoples and Louis XIV’s colonizers, the spoken text recounts the reliance of early settlers on local Indigenous knowledges necessary for survival. The energetic symphonic writing creates a sense of urgency juxtaposed with the throat singing of Tagaq, the lyrical and gentle “Treaty Song,” electroacoustic music, and various nature sounds, leading to Tagaq’s disturbing testimony about the abuses suffered and witnessed by children in residential school, as reflected in the persistent utterings of “I watched.” In this way, the audience is likewise called upon to witness and understand the dark history of colonial encounters and residential schools, in order to move towards reconciliation. . . This work was created in the spirit of reconciliation, a notion that celebrates the revitalization and renewal of healthy and respectful relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada; and in many ways, Going Home Star serves “to decolonize the audience,” as Beverley Diamond has put it, thus creating a space for dialogue and understanding. . . Although [the CD] does not include the visual dimensions of the ballet, the recording testifies to the negotiation of artistic perspectives and world views. It allows listeners to hear the music and consider the creative and respectful intercultural dialogue that was necessary in this work’s development, while pondering what reconciliation looks and sounds like today.Anna Hoefnagels, CAML Review

. . .The intersection of styles of music and movement was aggressively inter-cultural, as though people of different backgrounds were meeting face to face, while trying to reconcile their differences: those very same differences that are the basis of the TRC itself. Barcza Blog

 I was fortunate to see Going Home Star, a ballet with music by Christos Hatzis about truth and reconciliation with the aboriginal community in Canada. Throughout most of it I had a feeling I get with intensely emotional art, that I want to scream but my tongue has been cut off. It was the kind of experience that reminds you of what art is and how necessary is it . . . [an] experience of a lifetime. Sharayer Rajabi, Facebook post, October 4, 2014

 We can hardly find words to express our admiration for the entire company. The performance was so moving and compelling. Seeing the dancers perform on stage, with the sets, lighting, music, was made all the more meaningful to us having had the privilege of attending the rehearsal and meeting you all out at the ceremonial grounds. Have been following the media coverage and today's excellent CBC review; have never seen anything so important to be so celebrated. Going Home Star - Truth and Reconciliation faces head-on the legacy of Indian residential schools and beautifully portrays how reconciliation can be achieved by the actions of individuals and collectively. The Royal Winnipeg Ballet is going to bring these messages to more people, to an expanded wide audience, than could ever have been imagined. Our sincere appreciation and congratulations. [Author and Residential School attendee] Theodore Fontaine.

These are profound, compelling themes, not just for Aboriginal families and communities, but for all Canadians.—The Honourable Justice Murray Sinclair, Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

. . . His more complex compositions mix sounds as deep and rich as warm earth, acoustic instruments, and a unique sense of how effects such as sampling can make even the wispiest passing note indelible. The music here employs all these techniques; performers include individual and group singers and a symphony orchestra meshing to convey the emotional depths of this tragic situation, yet—as befits ballet music—there is never a feeling of mass, rather of nimble and powerful movement and constant metamorphosis. From its first minute much of this music is anxious, even frightening . . . the first five tracks here, the whole of Scene 1, are among the most unified—gripping and at times terrifying—music I know . . . while I held the info booklet in my hand I never read a word of it until this astounding 23 minutes had passed; I'm not sure I even blinked. The theme is an important and a tragic one, and I'm sure the dancers add their own visual power, but the music more than holds its own as a free-standing creation . . . There are moments that clearly evoke the terrors the children must have felt at the schools: as the nuns brutally indoctrinate a young girl the percussion itself seems to shiver with fear; the music at times evokes a sere landscape, one burnt bare by cold and abuse. . . While the story here is a very specific and a terrible one, this ballet is not a historical documentary, not a haranguing or a finger-wagging scold, or a simple morality play. Rather, it is a deeply affective evocation of the humanity of its characters struggling to heal and go forward; a universal.” - W. C. Bamburger, Amazon.com

. . . this ballet did more than any words could to capture “the Truth” about the Residential Schools Experience, and the “Reconciliation” or more properly the “healing” from that experience . . . it should be required viewing for all Canadians but most importantly for politicians of all stripes, judges, political commentators, students and academics who focus on history, political science, law, philosophy, sociology, education, psychology and religion. . . How you composed this piece of work and how you worked with both western and aboriginal themes, idioms and sounds to reflect both the tragedies and the healing is nothing short of a gift. The healing quality in the ballet rested first and foremost with the music; it held the story together and moved the spectator forward through scenes that in some instances were truly unbearable and dreadful to watch. From the beginning, there was something hopeful in the music, even as it underscored the clashes between western and aboriginal sounds. I am thinking here of the salon scenes as contrasted with the throat singing. As the music and the story developed I felt that I was hearing a deep hurt and disappointment in the music. The echoes of Swan Lake and Moon Rive sounded to me like lamentations. The music you wrote to symbolize the priests and the values of Louis IX had such a classical and gentle quality and yet was also so devastating as the truth about what was going on in the schools was revealed on stage. In some respects, what I found most interesting is that you did not abandon the western sounds or reject them outright for a pure aboriginal sound. Rather, you allowed the music to evolve in a way that blended the various traditions. That is where I found hope and healing - a truly extraordinary accomplishment. . . I can’t tell you how impressed I was at the number of aboriginal families who attended the performance. . . I sensed from them a deep satisfaction with what they were seeing. I also noticed that there were many young people in the audience who were there with parents and grandparents. That embracing of the performance is hugely significant. I don’t know if euphoria is the most accurate adjective but there was a sense of satisfaction. I could not read the reactions of those spectators who were not aboriginal. There is obviously a risk at over-generalizing in any one way or another but I sensed some guarded reactions. That is understandable—there was much to digest. . . I am really glad that we came out to be part of this historic performance. At the conclusion of the performance I was reminded that the word “listen” and the word “silent” have the same letters, only scrambled differently. We came to listen (and to watch). It was appropriate that we be silent for a bit, to reflect and digest what we witnessed. As Canadians we need to do far more listening than we have done to date. But I do believe that after the healing, we need to work towards a fulsome reconciliation. You accomplished that in your music. Let’s see how well we can do it in practice. R.T. Toronto. October 13, 2014



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