Tanya Tagaq
7:30PM, Saturday, November 18, 2017
TCU Place, Sid Buckwold Theatre
35 – 22nd Street East
Saskatoon, SK S7K 0C8
($15 – $80)
Eric Paetkau, Music Director
William Boan, violin
Tanya Tagaq, vocalist
Christine Duncan

When Tanya Tagaq premiered her new work Qiksaaktuq with the Toronto Symphony in March 2017 the work was called captivating, profound, and devastating – the SSO is thrilled to welcome the one of a kind Tagaq back to the stage with us.

The SSO’s own assistant-concertmaster William Boan, 2015 winner of the Saskatchewan Concerto Competition, makes his orchestral debut playing one of the most colourful and vivid concertos written for the violin.

Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde and Hatzis’ new Thunder Drum are heart-on-sleeve master pieces that express the human condition at its most exposed

Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan Und Isolde – Richard Wagner

Violin Concerto Op. 14 – Samuel Barber


Thunder Drum – Christos Hatzis

Qiksaaktuq – Tagaq/Duncan/Martin/orch. Mayo


William Boan
Saskatoon’s own William Boan is no stranger to SSO audiences – when he was named assistant-concertmaster he was the youngest to hold the position in any Canadian orchestra.  William has won many prestigious competitions, including the 2015 Saskatchewan Concerto Competition, and has represented our province at the National Music Festival Finals on multiple occasions. 

William graduates with a Bachelors in Music from the University of Saskatchewan where he has studied with Robert Klose.

Tanya Tagaq
Inuit throat singer and artist Tanya Tagaq won the Polaris Prize for best Canadian album in 2014, for Animism. Those who thought she had then made her definitive artistic statement are in for a surprise.

Also in for a shock are those who thought international success, playing to major festivals and packed houses all over the world, would lead to a mellower sound, or a more laid back approach.

Tagaq follows up Animism with Retribution, an even more musically aggressive, more aggressively political, more challenging, more spine tingling, more powerful masterpiece.

There are those who find comfort in the bland sweetness of middle of the road love songs designed to soothe. But then there are music fans that find comfort in honesty, blazing human talent and free, intelligent expression of passion. This album is not dinner party ambience music.

This album is a cohesive, whole statement. Why sugarcoat it? This album is about rape. Rape of women, rape of the land, rape of children, despoiling of traditional lands without consent. Hence the cover version of Nirvana’s song “Rape Me.” It’s at least a hundred times more chilling than the original.

Retribution is Tanya Tagaq’s portrait of a violent world in crisis, hovering on the brink of destruction. It’s a complex, exhilarating, howling protest that links lack of respect for women’s rights to lack of respect for the planet, to lack of respect for Indigenous rights. It’s an album about celebrating the great strength of women, it’s about rejecting the toxic, militaristic masculinity that’s taken over the world since the rise of Western industrial capitalism, and is rapidly destroying human life support systems through climate change and pollution. In a startling lyric from the title track, she observes, “Money has spent us.”

The Inuit people live on the cutting edge of the climate emergency. As sea ice dwindles at astonishing rates, they are witnessing the death of the entire Arctic ecosystem, as the colonialist machine rolls on, mining newly uncovered areas for diamonds. And the Inuit know the truth about the contemporary natures of the crimes at the center of Canada’s identity. Tagaq herself is a survivor of Canada’s infamous genocidal Residential School System, something most Canadians would rather imagine as a dealt-with thing of the distant past.

Tagaq is the leader of this project, and she uses the power of her voice, the power of her commitment to her performance, the power of her informed, uncompromising artistic standards, to draw other, similarly committed and talented people to her mission. Jesse Zubot collaborates as producer and lead violinist, creating a stunning array of sound, employing mastery over his instrument and an arsenal of digital and analogue effects. Jean Martin’s drumming builds dynamics and rolls devastatingly across the sonic landscape like a tank division of Tagaq Army, an army which also includes Tuvan throat singer Raddick Tulush, rapper Shad, traditional Inuk singer Ruben Komangapik, and Tagaq’s own young daughter, Inuuja, who is brought in on the first song, like a symbolic character in a novel, to represent both the hope of the future and also to elicit shame for the betrayals we are visiting on the generations to come.

We defy you to listen to this album without weeping, without shuddering, without feeling its intense power and immediacy. This is dramatic, relevant, stunning music. “Retribution will be swift.”“Tagaq projects sounds that carry the imprint of the body’s secret contours and recesses, delving far beyond personal utterance, out beyond human identity, to summon voices from the flesh cavity haunts of animal spirits and primal energies.” – The Wire (UK)



Prelude and Liebestod – Wagner – 15 mins

Wagner was born in 1813 and completed his Tannhäuser opera in 1845. The opera was premiered in Dresden on 19th October the same year. Tristan and Isolde was completed 1859 and premiered in Munich on 10th June 1865. Wagner was in his early thirties when he composed Tannhäuser, and in his mid forties when he composed Tristan. Between these two works Wagner was exiled from Germany for a decade, separated from his first wife, and completed most of his mammoth ring cycle.

The Tannhäuser overture is very nationalistic, featuring the formal and Germanic pilgrim’s chorus. Tristan and Isolde is more passionate, and has a tension that is resolved by a fabulous climax towards the end of the Liebestod. The two pieces combine well to showcase the breadth of Wagner’s orchestral style.

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Violin Concerto – Barber – 25 mins

The first movement—allegro molto moderato—begins with a lyrical first subject announced at once by the solo violin, without any orchestral introduction. This movement as a whole has perhaps more the character of a sonata than concerto form. The second movement—andante sostenuto—is introduced by an extended oboe solo. The violin enters with a contrasting and rhapsodic theme, after which it repeats the oboe melody of the beginning. The last movement, a perpetuum mobile, exploits the more brilliant and virtuosic character of the violin.

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Thunder Drum – Hatzis – 20 mins

Co-commissioned by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra and Symphony Nova Scotia with a grant from the Ontario Arts Council, Thunder Drum is a work for small orchestra and audio playback. (The audio playback is delivered from a MIDI keyboard.) Although the music of the outer movements is reminiscent of Western European 19th Century music and of more recent epic film sountracks, the underlying theme is informed by a vision of human prehistory expounded by the American mystic Edgar Cayce related to the shifting fortunes of what has been traditionally known as the “red race”, the native inhabitants of the north and central regions of the American continent. A great and lasting influence in my thinking and artistic imagination, Edgar Cayce (1877 – 1945) had mentioned in several of his trance utterances that the antediluvian world we know through legend as “Atlantis” was an advanced civilization dominated by the “red race” which had reached knowledge and technological heights comparable to our own. It fell spectacularly, having pushed its unquenchable thirst for ever increasing energy and power to ecological havoc, as our current civilization too is in danger of reaching with an exponentially increasing likelihood.

Elegy for a Lost World, the first movement of Thunder Drum, is a musical meditation on this loss, which is traumatically felt by our collective psyche as deep seated memory, in spite of the absence of any external evidence for the existence and loss of such an advanced civilization in our collective past. Beginning and developing along 19th Century European common harmonic and melodic practice (another vanishing world), the music is a vague reminiscence of a two-theme classical sonata form. Rising and then falling, the first lament-like theme is occasionally succeeded by another of serene reminiscence whose infrequent appearance only serves to highlight the sense of loss represented by the first theme. This melodic/harmonic discourse is gradually overtaken by denser chromaticism and accompanying musical tension, exacerbated by the technological “fly by” sound effects of the playback audio which are becoming ever more prominent. The movement concludes with a Beethovenesque tragic cadence.

Games, the second movement, is a great leap to the present moment. The industrial like “quantized” loops in the playback audio with their unexpected twists and turns are combined with pre-recorded samples by Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, one of the world’s best known Inuit artists, (used by permission from a recording session with Tanya for our collaboration on the ballet Going Home Star: Truth and Reconciliation). This sonic background constantly challenges an agile orchestra to technically rise to its unpredictable rhythmic demands, a task increasingly frustrated by metric modulations and other devices of rhythmic complexity. Fiendishly challenging for the conductor to keep the orchestra and the playback together, this erratic and increasingly aggressive movement ends with a series of short modal melodic gestures, which are rather foreign to the otherwise consistent sonic world of this movement but presages the thematic material of the third movement.

 Without any pause, Reconstitution, the third movement, begins quietly with a timid thematic development of the aggressive modal gestures that concluded the previous movement. They are in quintuple meter, the number five being a numerological indicator of human strife and aggression (pentagon, pentagram, etc.). The music once more picks up pace and energy and, this time around, it ends in an epic, triumphant but also hollow ending with the opening theme of Thunder Drum modulating to an altered major-like mode. In the aftermath of this triumphant conclusion, however, the two modes, the major and the minor are constantly alternating, suggesting an ambivalence and incompleteness that needs to be mediated upon in a future compositional essay. As history teaches us repeatedly, the phenomenon of the oppressed rising to power and dominance only creates a new imbalance of oppressors and oppressed with roles simply reversed, unless a deeper understanding of human purpose is learned through this macro-historical exercise. While rising to dominance may look and sound like historical justice, it does not address humanity’s deeper challenges and aspirations: of each and every one of us becoming our “brother’s keeper”; of treating others as we would have them treat us—the deeper (and perhaps only) Christian message.

Qiksaatuq – Tagaq – 20 mins

Commissioned for the Canada 150 celebrations and New Creations Festival of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, premiered March 2017.