The Victoria Symphony has released a short film depicting the making of the score it recorded for the CBC miniseries Bones of Crows.
The five-part miniseries has been called Canada’s version of Roots, the iconic 1977 miniseries that explored Black slavery in the United States.
"That was all about one of America's great shames," Matthew White, CEO of the Victoria Symphony, tells Capital Daily.
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"In this particular case, this is a national conversation that we as Canadians absolutely cannot ignore, so it was a real privilege to be asked to be a part of telling this story."
It’s not an easy story to tell.
It's a story about a nation that bullied a series of nations, took their land and tried to take their spirit.
There's a scene in the Bones of Crows trailer in which a residential school nun evilly kicks down a post, sending a small pyjama-clad child crashing into the freezing Prairie snow, a harbinger of hatred and abuse.
Music was in the works since 2021
In June 2021, the Victoria Symphony (VS) received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to commission, rehearse, and record a composition for the series, written, directed, and produced by Métis/Dene filmmaker Marie Clements.
They made a nine-minute video of the process, released directly to Youtube, with plans to air it locally in the coming weeks.
The music appears in both the feature length movie, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022 and the miniseries currently airing on CBC-TV and APTN-TV.
The song "You Are My Bones" was composed by Wayne Lavallee and Jesse Zubot, and features Cree vocalist Siibii and Tuscarora/Taino vocalist Pura Fé, alongside Indigenous singers and members of the Victoria Symphony, which contributed "parts of the soundtrack," White said.
"It's a tune that accompanies the apex of the series, I'll just leave it at that," he said. "It's a very dramatic moment at the end of the movie."
The VS has a long history of commissioning new works by Canadian composers, White said.
"That is something that we're very well-known for, being an orchestra that's both interested and capable of performing new, innovative music for symphony orchestras."
Case in point this weekend as the VS is slated to perform music from Star Wars and Star Trek, (Saturday night and Sunday afternoon at the Royal) "music that was written to accompany a narrative, a screen narrative."
The narrative of Bones of Crows is fiction, based on true events.
It's told through the eyes of a Cree woman, Aline Spears, who as a child and along with her siblings, is snatched from their Manitoba home and flung into Canada’s notorious residential school system.
Aline is proficient in music but she suffers a serious hand injury, pushing her music to the background as she and her siblings try to escape their scholastic prison, only to find tragedy.
As an adult, Aline uses her Cree language skills as a code talker in the Second World War when she meets an infantry soldier, whom she marries. The couple struggles to navigate their First Nations lives in a white world.
White says like many Canadians, members of the orchestra want to make tangible contributions to reconciliation.
"And this was an amazing opportunity to do that in our professional outfits," he says.
"For us, it was just an opportunity to take our professional skill and knowledge and passion and put it towards the telling of a story that has national importance."
Bones of Crows premiered Wednesday night and can be seen live on CBC & APTN or streamed on CBC Gem, APTN Lumi, and in French at iciTou.tv.