Thursday, September 29, 2022

Art and music combine for Stories and Mi’kmaq Legends with Leonard Paul

Halifax Camerata Singers celebrates the career of Mi'kmaq visual artist Leonard Paul in its final concert of the season.

In its final concert of this season and the penultimate for artistic director Jeff Joudrey, Halifax Camerata Singers celebrates the career of internationally acclaimed Mi’kmaq visual artist Leonard Paul in Stories and Mi’kmaq Legends with Leonard Paul.

Two years in the making, Stories and Mi’kmaq Legends with Leonard Paul began with Joudrey’s desire to create a concert that highlighted Mi’kmaq art paired with music from Mi’kmaq, Indigenous composers and First Nations poets.

“I was able to curate the music, and somebody suggested that I talk to Leonard, who lived just ten minutes away from me,” says Joudrey. “So we decided to meet for coffee, and we talked about how he approaches his art versus the way I approach a music score, and we discovered we had a lot in common.”

Born in Halifax, Leonard Paul's love for art would eventually take him to NSCAD University, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and then to Acadia University, where he earned a degree in Art History. Describing his work as “high realism,” his artwork largely consists of nature and wildlife paintings. However, his drawings based on Mi’kmaq legends will also feature prominently in the Camerata concert.
Born in Halifax, Leonard Paul’s love for art would eventually take him to NSCAD University, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and then to Acadia University, where he earned a degree in Art History. Describing his work as “high realism,” his artwork largely consists of nature and wildlife paintings. However, his drawings based on Mi’kmaq legends will also feature prominently in the Camerata concert.

“Not wanting to sound like a cliche, but I find that the two mediums are inextricably linked,” says Paul. “Jeff and I just meshed together very smoothly. I respect his trade, and he was very curious about my visual art, so we had a really easy start.”

Becoming friends as they talked and planned the concert, Joudrey would describe to Paul what he was looking for, eventually creating a show that would feature images of Paul’s artwork on screens behind the choir as they sang pieces that coordinated with those images.

Initially thinking he would use digital art made specifically for the show, Paul quickly realized it was not the medium for him.

“It turns out I hate digital art; it looks really fake, and that’s just not me,” Paul says. “And because Jeff was thinking about honouring my art career we decided to use existing works from my thirty-plus years as an artist.”

Providing some forty pieces of his work, Paul left it to Joudrey to choose the ones he felt best suited the music. “I told him to pick the ones that spoke to him,” he says.

Featuring three distinct sections to the program, the first deals in harmony with creation and will include Paul’s work in still life, animals and birds.

“The second section is what we’ve called ‘Resilience’; about how you come through adversity,” says Joudrey.

The final section of the concert, with the working title “Call to Action,” features Paul’s rough sketches of Mi’kmaq legends. “They are whimsical fantasy kind of pieces,” says Joudrey.

“Many of our First Nations youth did not know that we have these beautiful exotic stories, so I took the time to read them and started illustrating them,” says Paul. “It was a big learning curve, and I think it will be a real eye-opener.”

In his penultimate season with Halifax Camerata Singers, artistic director Jeff Joudrey (above centre) has created a concert highlighting Mi'kmaq art paired with music from Mi'kmaq, Indigenous composers and First Nations poets.
In his penultimate season with Halifax Camerata Singers, artistic director Jeff Joudrey (above centre) has created a concert highlighting Mi’kmaq artist Leonard Paul’s work paired with music from Mi’kmaq and Indigenous composers and First Nations poets.

Accompanying Paul’s artwork for the concert, the choir will sing music by First Nations composers Andrew Balfour and Russell Wallace, incorporating poems by Mi’kmaq poets Rita Joe and Mary Louise Martin, plus works by Morton Lauridsen and Frank Ticheli.

The choir will also premiere two new works by its composer-in-residence, Laura Hawley, and a piece sung in Inuktitut and English by Lavinia Kell Parker. In addition, the artistic advisor for this concert, Dr. Catherine Martin, will read Rebecca Thomas’s I Found My Talk, and Mi’kmaw drummers and dancers will join the show.

“I think it is a cool concept combining two very similar but very different art forms,” says Joudrey of the upcoming concert. “Plus, you will get to meet this brilliant artist Leonard Paul and see his art up close and personal.”

Halifax Camerata Singers presents Stories and Mi’kmaq Legends with Leonard Paul at St. Andrew’s United Church (6036 Coburg Rd, Halifax) on April 24. The performance will be live-streamed via Side Door Access. Visit halifaxcamerata.org for tickets and information.

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