The Sultans of String and Indigenous artists bring harmony to the stage

Audience members were exhilarated after experiencing a performance that took place at the Meridian Theatre in Centrepointe, across from the Woodroffe campus, on Jan 19. The Sultans of String and Friends performed their album inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. The show, Walking Through the Fire, toured the southern and […]
Photo: Emmet Paradis
Shannon Thunderbird, Coast Tsm'Syen First Nations Elder (left) and Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk (right), a Métis string musician, on stage on Jan. 19.

Audience members were exhilarated after experiencing a performance that took place at the Meridian Theatre in Centrepointe, across from the Woodroffe campus, on Jan 19.

The Sultans of String and Friends performed their album inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

The show, Walking Through the Fire, toured the southern and eastern parts of Ontario in the spring. After their visit to Ottawa, they’re performing in Kingston, Brampton and Guelph.

This performance is a collaboration between the non-Indigenous band, the Sultans of String, and Indigenous artists Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, Marc Meriläinen, Shannon Thunderbird and others.

“One of the calls to action is for non-Indigenous and Indigenous artists to work together so they are directly supporting that call,” said Laura Meriläinen, wife of performer Marc Meriläinen. “The Sultans executed the project allowing the Indigenous artists to write the songs and have their voice. Literally, there’s Indigenous language on the album.”

“I think Walking Through the Fire is about going through things that are tough and that are hard,” said Forrest Eaglespeaker, a performer who identifies as a non-status Indigenous person. “And then coming out on the other side, putting on a brave face and doing what has to be done.”

Nevada Freistadt (left) Forrest Eaglespeaker (right)
Nevada Freistadt (left) and Forrest Eaglespeaker (right) performing with the Sultans of String at the Meridian Theatre. Photo credit: Emmet Paradis

Throughout the performance, Shannon Thunderbird, a Coast Tsm’syen First Nations Elder, shared stories about residential schools and how they will never cease to affect the world. The audience broke into applause after Thunderbird stated that she is “not here to lay blame.”

Thunderbird emphasized not blaming anyone for the impact of residential schools to promote a collective agreement to healing.

“I do not believe ever that the sins of the father be visited on the children,” she said. “Because if we do that, or we continue to do that, then reconciliation might as well become an intellectual exercise.”

After the show, some audience members praised Thunderbird’s storytelling paired with the violinist’s Orca sounds. For one of them, the story of Luna the Orca was the highlight of the performance.

“I really loved how creative the sound design was,” said Emanuel Furman, an audience member and a local musician. “I think they did a very good job representing not just the Métis but also the Inuit, as well as the prairie folk and B.C. natives. I was pleasantly surprised by that.”

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