‘There’s a world of expression’: Indigenous opera singer to perform at Forward Currents Festival

‘There’s a world of expression’: Indigenous opera singer to perform at Forward Currents Festival
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Marion Newman will be performing with the Regina Symphony Orchestra Sunday as part of the Forward Currents Festival. (Submitted by Marion Newman) Marion Newman was five when she discovered her musical talent—although both of her parents were gifted as well.

Her mother played piano as a child and continued taking lessons as an adult, and her father had been a singer while in residential school.

Newman says she started learning melodies by ear when she was five and was put in lessons shortly thereafter.

"That’s how it started, and for me, it was a way of expressing myself in a much deeper way than I could with words at the age of five and I was hooked," she said.

"There’s music in my blood." Creating her own space

Newman is of Kwagiulth, Stó:lo, English, Irish and Scottish descent. She said people would often tell her that it would be more beneficial for her career to not identify as Indigenous.

"I disagreed all the way along. That’s where change begins, is letting people know that I’m Indigenous and I’m doing this unusual-seeming career path," she said.

"I’ve always wanted to be able to tell stories in that medium, the Indigenous stories."

Newman said that composers are creating more and more pieces for her to be able to showcase her talent as well as her heritage, but she did start out composing those kinds of pieces for herself. From piano to voice

Newman originally studied piano in college, but was required to take voice as a second instrument in order to better understand how to accompany singers as a piano player.

One day, her teacher had stepped out of the class and Newman decided to "make fun" of some of the singers—"Very rude of me," she laughed.

"I, up to this point, had sounded like a boy alto, I had very straight tone," she said.

But during this playful ribbing, she had sung with vibrato, rather than her usual straight tone.

"When she came back into the room, [my teacher] said ‘I heard that, now I know you can really sing, let’s get to work.’"

Newman was only supposed to take voice for that one year in college, but her voice teacher continued her lessons right up until Newman graduated.

"I don’t even remember if she charged me. It was a really great gift," she said."I realized that words, and always collaborating with someone else was part of it. It was less lonely for me and there’s just a world of expression that I really… I was keen." Forward Currents Festival The pieces Newman performed at the festival Sunday are the result of a months-long collaboration between famed composer Bramwell Tovey and herself.Tovey wanted her guidance in steering clear of appropriation and composing a piece around reconciliation in Canada.Newman said that the fact that he asked those questions made her sure it would be something she would be happy to perform.The resulting pieces are a stitching together of words from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Stephen Harper apology to survivors of residential schools and some correspondence between the Canadian government and residential schools, as well as some other works."It tells a narrative starting out with the romanticization of Indigenous cultures all over the world, you know, putting them in museums and imagining these beautiful cultures living side by side with equality between men and women et cetera, et cetera, but at the same time, crushing them and stamping out those cultures."Sunday is the final evening of the Forward Currents Festival at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.With files from CBC Radio’s Saskatchewan Weekend

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‘There’s a world of expression’: Indigenous opera singer to perform at Forward Currents Festival

‘There’s a world of expression’: Indigenous opera singer to perform at Forward Currents Festival
Share this!

Marion Newman will be performing with the Regina Symphony Orchestra Sunday as part of the Forward Currents Festival. (Submitted by Marion Newman) Marion Newman was five when she discovered her musical talent—although both of her parents were gifted as well.

Her mother played piano as a child and continued taking lessons as an adult, and her father had been a singer while in residential school.

Newman says she started learning melodies by ear when she was five and was put in lessons shortly thereafter.

"That’s how it started, and for me, it was a way of expressing myself in a much deeper way than I could with words at the age of five and I was hooked," she said.

"There’s music in my blood." Creating her own space

Newman is of Kwagiulth, Stó:lo, English, Irish and Scottish descent. She said people would often tell her that it would be more beneficial for her career to not identify as Indigenous.

"I disagreed all the way along. That’s where change begins, is letting people know that I’m Indigenous and I’m doing this unusual-seeming career path," she said.

"I’ve always wanted to be able to tell stories in that medium, the Indigenous stories."

Newman said that composers are creating more and more pieces for her to be able to showcase her talent as well as her heritage, but she did start out composing those kinds of pieces for herself. From piano to voice

Newman originally studied piano in college, but was required to take voice as a second instrument in order to better understand how to accompany singers as a piano player.

One day, her teacher had stepped out of the class and Newman decided to "make fun" of some of the singers—"Very rude of me," she laughed.

"I, up to this point, had sounded like a boy alto, I had very straight tone," she said.

But during this playful ribbing, she had sung with vibrato, rather than her usual straight tone.

"When she came back into the room, [my teacher] said ‘I heard that, now I know you can really sing, let’s get to work.’"

Newman was only supposed to take voice for that one year in college, but her voice teacher continued her lessons right up until Newman graduated.

"I don’t even remember if she charged me. It was a really great gift," she said."I realized that words, and always collaborating with someone else was part of it. It was less lonely for me and there’s just a world of expression that I really… I was keen." Forward Currents Festival The pieces Newman performed at the festival Sunday are the result of a months-long collaboration between famed composer Bramwell Tovey and herself.Tovey wanted her guidance in steering clear of appropriation and composing a piece around reconciliation in Canada.Newman said that the fact that he asked those questions made her sure it would be something she would be happy to perform.The resulting pieces are a stitching together of words from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Stephen Harper apology to survivors of residential schools and some correspondence between the Canadian government and residential schools, as well as some other works."It tells a narrative starting out with the romanticization of Indigenous cultures all over the world, you know, putting them in museums and imagining these beautiful cultures living side by side with equality between men and women et cetera, et cetera, but at the same time, crushing them and stamping out those cultures."Sunday is the final evening of the Forward Currents Festival at the MacKenzie Art Gallery.With files from CBC Radio’s Saskatchewan Weekend

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