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Providence Music Professor to Premiere Newest Composition
Karen Sunabacka will premiere her newest composition at the upcoming Agassiz Chamber Music Festival.
Entitled “Mama’s Painting: Louis Riel’s Dream”, the work honours Sunabacka's Metis grandmother, Lenore Clouston, and poetry of her mother, Joyce Clouston. It will be performed on June 6, at 7:30 p.m., in the University of Winnipeg’s Convocation Hall.
Labelled an “early highlight” of the festival by the Winnipeg Free Press, “Mama’s Painting” takes inspiration from Lenore’s project: “Louis Riel’s Dream.”
“She began with five sketches that she intended to turn into five paintings,” writes Sunabacka, who teaches music theory and composition at Providence, in the programme notes. “These paintings were to highlight the history of Western Canada through the stories of aboriginal and Metis people, illustrating the clashes of culture and politics in Canada and pointing to a future where people of all races could live in harmony.”
Unfortunately, Lenore was unable to finish the set of paintings, and her sketches were lost in a fire. Sunabacka, however, endeavoured to complete the project musically. “Mama’s Painting” is the result.
Inviting collaboration from additional family members, including her sister and two of her aunts, she draws heavily on her mother’s poetry, which opens all five movements of the piece.
She also explores the music of Oliver Messiaen—a French-born composer and contemporary of Lenore.
“I found similarities between him and my grandmother,” Sunabacka writes, pointing out that Messiaen was “both an enthusiastic ornithologist with a love for the world and a committed church musician” who brought birdcalls into his compositions.
“This pairs well with my grandmother, who had a deep faith, who lived in rural Manitoba and whose love of the world around her is reflected in her work,” writes Sunabacka. “The vision of my grandmother continues to be something for which I feel our communities must strive.”
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