Places of Refuge Program Notes
Tuesday August 22, 7 p.m.
~Jack the Fiddler~
Karen Sunabacka Jack the Fiddler (2023)
Elation Pauls Violin & Will Bonness Piano
Elation Pauls Biography ~ Will Bonness Biography ~ Karen Sunabacka Biography
Commissioned by and written for Elation Pauls with the generous support of SOCAN, the Canada Council for the Arts, (CCA), Manitoba Arts Council (MAC), Winnipeg Arts Council (WAC) and the Academic Development and Research Fund (ADRF) at Conrad Grebel University College. The text was completed in a collaborative way with Joyce writing and Karen and Joyce editing. The text also couldn’t have been completed without the wonderful help of dramaturge Debbie Paterson. We are grateful to John and Hazel Clouston for providing source materials, including copies of Jack’s early violin books, transcripts of journals, and musical tapes and descriptions. Sherry Linklater Russel and Merv Russel were generous in their hospitality, shared memories, and conversations around Métis values and music. Thanks to Lloyd Thomas, fiddler extraordinaire who offered insights on the importance of fiddling to Métis cultural life in the Selkirk area. Thanks also to Stewart and Bev Fraser of Thomas Bunn Heritage House whose warm hospitality and wide knowledge of local history and lore contributed to our composition development.
At the end of the lucrative fur trade in in Western Canada, the majority population of English and French Métis numbering 10,000 formed a Provisional Government under Louis Riel. Alex the Elder’s cousin was a member of this group negotiating entry to the Confederation of Canada in 1869 based on the promise of recognition of their ancestral land rights. Jack’s family were settlers of Scottish-British origins; his grandfather had arrived in the 1860’s and established a mill and blacksmith shop at Lower Fort Garry.
Through a series of delays, duplicity, and chaotic maneuvers, an estimated 85% of the promised lands were removed from the Métis. Their long narrow river-lots had given easy access to kin, churches and parish halls in communities stretching along the Red River to the north and south of ‘the Forks’, and the Assiniboine to the west. Inland from these river-lots their
shared lands were rich and fertile with wild fruit, small game, as well as meadows for pasturing cattle and horses.
Métis resistance to the betrayal was quashed by a mass of Canadian troops who initiated a “reign of terror” that included the murder of some Métis leaders, exile of others, and silencing of those remaining, among them Alex’s family.
MacDonald’s plan to “keep those impetuous half-breeds down until they are swamped by an influx of settlers” suited Jack’s father who took advantage of this policy, and quickly settled on a prime location in the former shared pasturelands. In his father’s view, “the half-breeds weren’t using the lands properly anyway.”
But while he and other new-comers were economically advantaged, the web-of-relationships of the Métis helped them to purchase in these ancestral lands, and working together, they re-built homes and barns. Their school ensured children would be equipped for a rapidly changing world, their church, and parish hall, centers of celebration.
Jack formed a friendship with Popeye, a child who lived with Elder Alex and his wife Marta whose home was a gathering place. Relationships were nurtured and grew through skating and toboggan parties in winter, baseball games in summer, and music interwoven in all. To Jack’s father music was ‘a tool of the devil’, and dance ‘in the fire’. He didn’t want a child ‘smarter’ than himself, so forced Jack to quit school at 13.
The small cabin Jack built to live and practice in while working to earn his own living was visited often by Popeye and his guitar. Together with Alex’s children on keyboard, they formed a band playing through their teen years at dances in nearby villages in the lean depression years. In September 1939, Jack, and Popeye joined the Canadian Army in the frontlines of Europe where Popeye died in action. Alex’s daughter Lenore, Jack’s steady pianist served in the Canadian Air Force and met Jack at the train on his return at Christmas 1945.
Jack and Lenore’s purchased farm, formerly the Métis berry-patch, a site alive with birdsong – helped Jack’s recovery from the nightmares of combat. In this beauty and with music, he survived polio, and found solace after the tragic loss of his youngest son. Farm income was supplemented with Jack’s work in a steel mill, while Lenore cared for a small dairy herd, and large gardens. Both encouraged education and music for their seven children. Holidays featured music – with children and grandchildren alike playing rattles, spoons, drums, shakers – anything at hand, taking turns on the piano and guitars – with Jack, of course, on fiddle.
Alex continued to delight his grandchildren by dancing with them well into his seventies and was buried along the river at St. Clements, where his heart remained always. Jack and Lenore resumed playing with friends at local senior’s residences in their later years until Jack’s death in his 69th year, and Lenore’s soon after at the age of 71.
In 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada recognized the treatment of the Métis at Confederation as unjust, and in 2021, Crown Indigenous Affairs announced The Government of Canada and the Manitoba Metis Federation are working closely together to advance reconciliation and renew our government-to-government relationship based on the affirmation of rights, respect, co-
operation and partnership.
- John and Hazel Clouston: early musical journals, recordings of Jack and Lenore, and memories.
- Lloyd Thomas, Fiddler and Historian, Matheson Island/East Selkirk.
- Barkwell, Laurence. “Manitoba’s Provisional Government of 1879.” Manitoba Historical Society, www.mb.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people.
- Milne, Brad. “The historiography of Métis Land Dispersal, 1870 – 1890.” Manitoba History. Number 30, (Autumn 1995).
- Teillet, Jean (2019). The Northwest Is Our Mother: The Story of Riel’s People, The Métis Nation. Harper Collins: Canada.
Franz Josef Haydn String Quartet No. 53 in D Major Op. 64, No. 5 Hob III:63 "The Lark"
Axel Strauss & Elation Pauls, Violin
Élise Lavallée Viola, Leanne Zacharias Cello
Axel Strauss Biography ~ Elation Pauls Biography ~ Élise Lavallée Biography ~ Leanne Zacharias Biography
Robert Schumann Piano Quintet in Eb Major Op. 44
Axel Strauss & Elation Pauls Violin,
Élise Lavallée Viola, Blair Lofgren Cello, Paul Williamson Piano
Axel Strauss Biography ~ Elation Pauls Biography ~ Élise Lavallée Biography
Blair Lofgren Biography ~ Paul Williamson Biography
Wednesday August 23 7 p.m.
Robert Schumann Liederkreis Op. 39 No. 5 "Mondnacht" for piano solo
Leanne Regehr Lee, Piano
Leanne Regehr Lee Biography
Jocelyn Morlock Asylum (2010)
Gwen Hoebig Violin, Minna Rose Chung Cello, Leanne Regehr Lee Piano
Gwen Hoebig Biography ~ Minna Rose Chung Biography ~ Leanne Regehr Lee Biography
Co-commissioned by the CBC and the Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival, for the tenth anniversary of the Festival, and the 200th anniversary of Robert Schumann’s birth. Premiered August 6, 2010 at the Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival by
Nancy Dahn, violin; Vernon Regehr, violoncello, and Timothy Steeves, piano.
The first four piano notes of Asylum are a very slow-motion quote from Schumann’s Mondnacht (the fifth song in his Liederkreis, Op. 39.) The mood of the opening section (mm. 1 - 33) is reminiscent of the ethereal mood of Mondnacht, though there is a general descent into something more disturbed. The next two sections of the piece (mm. 34 - 56, mm. 57 - 96) both start similarly; the first of these again dissolves into a mood of disquiet but the second time there is a more expansive and calmer transition. (The harmonic underpinning of this second transition is another Mondnacht quote; it is based on the harmonies of the last line of the song als flöge sie nach Haus where there is a sort of ambiguous IV-I cadence.)
The end of the piece has a relatively direct quote of the first vocal line of the song at m. 104 in the violin. M. 116 to the end combines fragments of the melodic line of the words als flöge and that of the first line of text (Es war, als hätt' der Himmel)
so as to seem like a fleeting recollection of the past.
Asylum is inspired by Schumann in several ways - I am very interested in the emotional landscapes of his music, and his dual characters Florestan and Eusebius. This piece tends toward the introverted but has various outbursts, before crawling
back into its shell. (A good example of this "outburst" would be mm. 30-33.) The other source of inspiration is the combination of ecstasy and horror experienced by Schumann himself, and that whole range of emotions, often veering from one to
The name Asylum refers to both the asylum that Schumann found himself in at the end of his life (I imagine him having moments of calm where he recollects his life and hears his music), and perhaps more significantly to the idea of an asylum as a
place of refuge, which I imagine and hope that music could be for Schumann, and which it certainly is for me.
Franz Schubert String Quintet in C Major D 956
Axel Strauss & Gwen Hoebig, Violin
Élise Lavallée, Viola, Blair Lofgren & Yuri Hooker Cello
Axel Strauss Biography ~ Gwen Hoebig Biography ~ Élise Lavallée Biography
Blair Lofgren Biography ~ Yuri Hooker Biography