Canada 150 means different things for different Canadians. The Unsilent Project has proven to be a tremendous indigenizing force within the extended NYO Canada community. Through a year-long series of transcultural exchanges and collaborative workshops led by Signal Theatre, a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists joined NYO Canada to create a new staged performance weaving together spoken word and orchestra. Conceived by Signal Theatre's Artistic Director Michael Greyeyes and NYO Canada's Gregory Oh, the project draws inspiration from the work of the late Piikani Blackfoot poet Zaccheus Jackson.
The Unsilent Project weaves together Zaccheus' poetry with original orchestral works by composers Ian Cusson and Juliet Palmer; new poetry by spoken word artists Brendan McLeod, Zoey “Pricelys” Roy and Lindsay “Eekwol” Knight; costumes by designer Isidra Cruz; and stage direction by Falen Johnson. Moving between poetry and music, The Unsilent Project contrasts wordlessness and dialogue, with a hundred young musicians elevating and amplifying Indigenous voices and stories. The Unsilent Project closes with Strauss'Death and Transfiguration.
New works commissioned by NYO Canada for The Unsilent Project:
Composer Ian Cusson's A Child's Bright Eyes, an orchestral work inspired by Zaccheus Jackson's poem of the same name, connects a child's awakening to Zaccheus' own transformation from wordless to wordsmith, from unheard to outspoken.
Spoken word artist Zoey “Pricelys” Roy's poem Unsilent announces an Indigenous awakening: “they tried to bury us, they didn't know that we were seeds.”
Lindsay “Eekwol” Knight's Grounded invites us to “rethink what life looks like nation to nation — action and movement is what will really bring change.”
Composer Juliet Palmer's Invicta amplifies Zaccheus Jackson's voice in a new work for two spoken word performers and orchestra. Slowing down the mile-a-minute pace of spoken word performance, we dig deeper into Jackson’s poem to grapple with the difficult truths of colonization in Canada. Finding music in the inflections and rhythms of the voice, Invicta finds a balance and a meeting point between cultures and histories.
In his new poem Don't Run, spoken word artist Brendan McLeod asks us to face Canada's history, let it “thunder through our minds and make a mess” and looks forward to the day when “the sound of so many nations forced into one / stops being a howling / and becomes a new song.”