How Do We Listen?

How Do We Listen? is an interdisciplinary project that tells the story of sisters Angee and Judie Acquin (Wolastoqew), whose grandmother, Virginia Acquin, and grandmother’s sister Doris were sent to the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School in what is known today as the Province of Nova Scotia. Doris drowned at Shubenacadie. Their grandmother Viginia suffered the long-term effects of her experiences at the Indian Residential School, with the intergenerational effects carried forward to subsequent generations of the Acquin family.

The work employs Indigenous and early European art music, text, live-performed soundscapes, a script, and whisper texts, performed by a team of artists and scholars that includes Angee Acquin (Wolastoq writer and speaker), Hubert Francis (Mi’kmaw singer, drummer, speaker), Judie Acquin (Wolastoq singer, drummer, speaker), Brian Francis (Mi’kmaw, film director and visuals), Linda Pearse (artistic director, Baroque trombonist), Ann Waltner (scriptwriter, speaker), Joel Miller (composer), John Watkins (literary scholar and speaker), and members of the early music ensemble ¡Sacabuche!

The title, “How Do We Listen?” puts the burden of listening on non-Indigenous people, those whose ability to connect meaningfully with Indigenous peoples might contribute to an improved conversation surrounding Indigenous issues and a more nuanced understanding of the Indigenous experience. Listening to stories like that of the Acquin sisters is an important step in understanding the ongoing issues and the legacy of intergenerational trauma of the Indian Residential School experienced by survivors and their families.

Finding Repose: Women’s Voices in New France

Sources documenting women’s voices and ideas in New France are scant, yet the challenge of giving voice to those sources and to women’s complex identities through this program is enticing. Finding Repose explores the experience and perspectives of female voices in New France, integrating sacred and secular music from this period with historical writings and observations. We engage with the voices of two women and one group of women: Catherine Tekakwitha, Marie de l’Incarnation, and les filles de roi (The King’s Daughters), women with diverse biographies, experiences, and who lived in complex cultural, religious, and secular spaces. Their lives tell different stories. Tekakwitha was a Mohawk woman who converted to Christianity, was canonized in 2012, and lived her life as both Mohawk and Christian; Marie de l’Incarnation, following a brief secular time with spouse and child soon entered the convent as an Ursuline nun, founding the first girls’ school in New France; les filles du roi were women sent to New France in the later seventeenth century to promote family, marriage, and ultimately to increase the population, providing the many fur traders and soldiers with spouses. With this program, we aim to tell a different story, a story that includes the perspectives of women and respects the complexity and challenges of cultural interactions during pre-confederation time in New France.

Hidden Treasures: the Austrian Habsburgs and the Kroměříž Archive

The rich tradition of music-making in Austrian and Czech lands during the 17th-century combines an Italianate style with local music traditions. This unique program brings beautiful yet unknown and lesser-known works housed in the archives of the Kroměříž Archive in the Czech Republic (CZ-KRa) and other European libraries to the stage. Vivid writing for voice, violins, cornettos, trombones, and organ colours these stunning works by composers of the mid-seventeenth century in Austria and Czech lands, including Antonio Bertali, Buonamente, Vejvanovsky and anonymous composers. Their music testifies to the rich tradition and opulence of the Habsburg court and its expansive influence. The majority of these works do not exist in modern editions nor in recorded format. As such, this program brings new works to the ears and eyes of modern audiences.

                 Venetia 1500 with Ann Waltner (Historian) and John Watkins (Literary Scholar)

Take a multi-media walking tour of Venice! “Venetia 1500” is a multimedia performance inspired by the aerial map of Venice from 1500 by Jacopo de’Barbari. The work weaves music, texts and the map in a conversation that offers audience members insight into the cultural landscape of sixteenth-century Venice. The performance explores the gritty and complex world of this glorified city as it faces the new world order. Early music includes that of Italian, Sephardic and Turkish composers. Sensual melodies of the Ottoman empire mix with rapturous sounds of poly-choral music at St. Mark’s. Newly composed music creates a dialogue between present and past. Texts by nuns and priests, poetry by courtesans, and court documents furnish the textual fabric

Italy Invades Poland! – Italian Influences at the 17th-Century Polish Court

Italian innovations in musical style and expression during the late 16th and early17th centuries included a heightened sensitivity to text expression, the better to move the affections of the listener. The new style spread through the courts and musical life of Europe, mixing with local influences. This program highlights this music through works by Luca Marenzio and his Italian colleagues, and showcases the stunning Mazurka-influenced Italian-style instrumental works, and concerted vocal textures of Polish composers Adam Jarzębski, Nicolaus Zielenski, Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński, and others.

Venetian Influences

Venice was a leading center for the dramatic musical developments at the turn of the 17th century. Its relative independence of the Catholic church in Rome, its cosmopolitan economic and social life, and the affluence of its private citizens and churches created the perfect environment for engagement with the “modern” style. The developments in dramatic music were paralleled in the instrumental idiom—the specification of instruments, the development of virtuosic writing, and the search for expression led to the creation of stunning works for This program explores this repertoire with breath-taking works by Venetian composers like Giovanni Gabrieli, Dario Castello, and Giovanni Legrenzi. It also explores the far-reaching influence that Venetian composers exerted elsewhere in 17th-century Europe with works by Polish, German, and Viennese masters.

Matteo Ricci: His Map and Music with Ann Waltner (Historian)

A multi-media performance reanimating the pivotal cultural exchange between Italian Jesuits and Chinese literati in 17th-century China. This program combines music and dramatic readings, visually framed by a projected digitized version of the world map that Matteo Ricci created and presented to the Wanli Emperor. The repertoire includes Italian and Chinese music of Ricci’s time, as well as collaborative new works written for ¡Sacabuche! by Chinese composer Huang Ruo. Traditional Chinese instrumentalists join ¡Sacabuche!, who perform on Baroque instruments.

Heinrich Isaac: Missa La Spagna in the Village Square

The “Missa La Spagna” is based on a popular dance melody from the early sixteenth century. ¡Sacabuche! presents the mass as it might have been heard in the village square, its movements surrounded by lively secular dance tunes and lyrical motets. Voices with sackbuts, dulcian, recorder and cornetto create sublime textures and provide a unique glimpse into the fascinating world of the Habsburg and Medici courts.

The Glories of Venice and Vienna

This program explores the stunningly beautiful writing of Venetian and Viennese composers at the turn of the seventeenth century. The rich sonorities of both vocal and instrumental textures come alive in the works of Giovanni Gabrieli, Claudio Monteverdi, Heinrich Schütz and Dario Castello. Large-scale vocal works featuring sackbuts, cornettos, and violins are contrasted with virtuosic instrumental solos. It is a feast for the ears, heart and soul.