Seated at a piano in the National Arts Centre, Jeremy Dutcher explained to the audience how his forthcoming debut, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, is, as he puts it, "part composition, part musical ethnography, part linguistic reclamation." The pianist/vocalist's melodies come from the oldest known field recordings of the Wolastoq peoples along the St. John river basin, preserved on wax cylinders.
Dutcher's operatic tenor was in fine form, pairing his traditional singing style with colourful, free-flowing piano arrangements. While playing, he turned to a tablet resting on the piano to trigger a grainy vocal recording of an ancestor from over 110 years ago, continuing to accompany the voice with keys.
Dutcher's piano prowess was on full display during a song about coming together to protect the Earth. He tapped the body of the instrument for additional percussion while keeping chords to his right hand, later adding crashing glissando and short, precise strikes of the keys with a closed fist. He also invited Melody McKiver back to the stage to perform a gentle cover of Buffy Sainte-Marie's "The Dream Tree."
"When you get to sit with these songs, you become part of a lineage…that I'm so happy to be a part of," Dutcher said of the ancestral material. After cutting himself off, he dryly joked, "I didn't come here to waste time, I came to transcend it."