This January, the JUNO Award-nominated Sultans of String, together with the nine-time Grammy-nominated Northern Cree powwow group, Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, Marc Meriläinen (Nadjiwan), Shannon Thunderbird and a dozen other Indigenous artists, will bring their collaboration, Walking Through Fire, to life on the stage at Kingston Grand Theatre (web link
In accordance with Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action, Walking Through Fire is the result of continued collaboration between the bands and musicians, who co-conceived the project as a way to build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. Walking Through Fire has been released as an album, and comes to life as a touring musical theatrical production that stops at Kingston Grand Theatre on January 23, 2024.
“When we drop the word reconciliation on people, there’s a large group of people who don’t understand what that means," explained the project's Indigenous art director Mark Rutledge. "And when you don’t understand something, you are fearful of it. But if we go through the same experience together—we walk through that fire together—and we come out together on the other end and have that unified experience together, that’s the power in this album.”
As a show, Walking Through Fire is a powerful collection of collaborations between Sultans of String and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit artists from across Turtle Island. "We are so fortunate for the opportunity to work with Indigenous artists, sharing their stories, their experiences, and their lives with us, so we can continue our work of learning about the history of residential schools, genocide, and intergenerational impacts of colonization," remarked Sultans of String violinist, Chris McKhool. "Music has a special capacity for healing, connecting, and expressing truth.”
Musically, Walking Through Fire encompasses a diversity of cultural styles, from Métis fiddling to rumba and rock, through to the Indigenous drumming of the Pacific Northwest. Performers include Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk of the Métis Fiddler Quartet, Ojibwe/Finnish Singer-Songwriter Marc Meriläinen (Nadjiwan), and Coast Tsm’syen Elder and singer-songwriter Shannon Thunderbird, plus virtual guest appearances including Dr. Duke Redbird, the Northern Cree Pow Wow group, and more. “When you’re collaborating with mainstream music, it shows that we can work together to bring out the very best in who we are as human beings, and we can bring out something very beautiful,” remarked Northern Cree drummer, Steve Wood.
The songs of Walking Through Fire beautifully reveal the depths of contemporary Indigenous experience and music, expressed in the spirit of the TRC's 94 Calls to Action, and Final Report that asks that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people work together as an opportunity to show a path forward.
Key to this path is the need for the whole truth of Residential Schools and the Indigenous experience to be told. “The place that we have to start is with truth," explained Grammy-nominated Elder and poet Dr. Duke Redbird, who in many ways provided the initial inspiration for Walking Through Fire. "Reconciliation will come sometime way in the future, perhaps, but right now, truth is where we need to begin the journey with each other.”
Grand OnStage presents Walking Through Fire at Kingston Grand Theatre at 7:30 pm on January 23, 2024. Individual tickets start at $19.50 and are available for purchase online here: web link
Posted: Dec 19, 2023
In this Article Artist(s)
The Sultans of String, Alyssa Delbaere-Sawchuk, Marc Meriläinen , Shannon Thunderbird, Northern Cree Resource(s)