SONG OF THE RIVER
Words and Music by: Deantha Edmunds (b. 1970), arr. Leslee Heys (b. 1961)
Performed by: Ullugiagâtsuk Choir, Nunatsiavut, Labrador
Song of the River was written by Deantha Edmunds and arranged for Ullugiagâtsuk Youth Choir and string quartet by Leslee Heyes. Deantha recently created a solo concert of personal poetry and songs with a ‘lost and found’ theme entitled Finding Herself – Harmonies for Her. Some of these works were inspired by embracing her identity as an Indigenous woman, and some were written to honor and bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Women, Girls and Two-Spirited People. Song of The River, one of the songs from this collection, was inspired by the strength, dignity, and resilience of Indigenous people, and was written in honour of Deantha’s family. Leslee Heyes (composer/arranger) reflects on her inspiration when arranging the work: “In Deantha’s poem, the river is a complex metaphor for the positive qualities of change, hope, life, and direction, but also for the negative qualities of division, danger, and suppressed memories. Similarly, I found that her beautiful melody didn’t want to stay boxed into a single tonality; it flowed seamlessly from mode to mode, both light and dark, reflecting the spirit of the river. The string quartet at first is used to evoke ancient times, through the drone and empty fifths, and later to accompany the text with a simulation of the river itself.”
Now in her fourteenth year of collaboration with Shallaway Youth Choir, Leslee Heys is more committed than ever to the moral ideals and artistic goals of this ensemble. Leslee also enjoys many other aspects of music-making in the community: she plays for the awardwinning women’s choir Lady Cove, has a dynamic private piano studio, is a sought-after accompanist and adjudicator, and composes in her free time.
Her choral settings, particularly of Newfoundland and Labrador songs, have gained national recognition, and are introducing Canadian choirs to the richness of our provincial musical heritage.
Leslee’s skills as coach/ accompanist have led to international performances in more than a dozen countries, as well as participation in Canadian events such as Festival 500, Opera on the Avalon, the National Music Festival, and the rESOund Festival of Contemporary Music. Leslee holds a Bachelor of Music Performance from the University of Toronto, a Master of Music Performance from the University of Western Ontario, and an Associateship from the Royal Conservatory of Toronto (Performance).
Deantha Edmunds has the distinction of being Canada’s first classical singer of Inuit descent. Originally from Newfoundland and Labrador, she studied music and arts at Acadia and Concordia Universities and also privately with some of Canada’s finest voice teachers. Deantha has performed on stages throughout the country and abroad. Of special significance to her is her performance on the first ever National Aboriginal Achievement Awards shows which were televised nationally on the CBC. The album Pillorikput Inuit:
Inuktitut Arias for All Seasons features Deantha as soprano soloist, and was nominated for the Aboriginal Artist of the Year Award at the 2016 East Coast Music Awards. In May 2017, Deantha was named a laureate of the prestigious Hnatyshyn Foundation REVEAL Indigenous Art Awards. She resides in New Brunswick where she continues to teach and perform.