The Port Theatre is ready once again to offer “an absolute unique experience” in its 2022-23 Spotlight series.
Bruce Halliday, former Port Theatre Society general manager and lineup curator, said this season will introduce brand-new acts to Nanaimo as well as familiar experiences.
“It’s kind of a ‘welcome back’ season,” he said. “It’s really exciting, it’s culturally diverse and yet accessible … It’s a bit like Alice Through the Looking Glass … You’re never quite sure what it’s going to be until you get there,” he said, adding the artistic excellence that each act brings can rarely be admired in smaller communities.
The series starts mid-September with Juno and Polaris award winner Jeremy Dutcher who will blend traditional Tobique First Nations Wolastoq songs with his own as an opera singer.
“I’m so excited to come to this part of the world [again],” said Dutcher. “I come from the East Coast and I’m so happy to be going to the west and sharing my music and my message with people here.”
With his performance, Dutcher said he emphasizes the importance of keeping Indigenous languages strong.
His debut album, Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa, followed a research project that had him transcribing Wolastoq songs preserved on wax cylinders from 1907 found in the depths of the Canadian Museum of History archives. From those recordings, he collaboratively composed a collection of his own stylings for his album release in 2018.
In the archives he said he found more than 100 recordings of his ancestors that “nobody really used or knew about,” and was urged to “give them new life” by incorporating them into a contemporary context for people to better understand the struggles of Indigenous peoples. His collaborated songs are kept without transcription to preserve the language.
“It is kind of bizarre – I went from these passionless, very dark and musty archives – and tried to create something loud and bright … I was really encouraged by the elders of my community…” he said. “When I sat down and was listening to those, transcribing them, trying to figure them out … what I realized when I got to hear those voices is that they sang with such power and directness … there was just so much I heard that came through those old recordings … For me, I wanted to bring them out and show people how beautiful they were.”
Following Dutcher’s performance on Sept. 12, the Spotlight series will continue on Oct. 14 with a one-woman “burlesque cabaret dream play” telling of Josephine Baker, an American-born French dancer, singer and actress.
In the winter, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet will return to perform the winter classic Nutcracker from Dec. 6-7 and Winter Harp will also return to combine classical and Celtic harps, flutes, violin, percussion, poetry and song on Dec. 10.
Also returning this season is International Guitar Night on Jan. 27 for the act’s 23rd year touring, featuring jazz guitarist Jocelyn Gould and flamenco master Jesus Guerrero from Spain.
Feb. 7 will see a tour of the Toronto-based Indigenous dance company Red Sky performing Miigis: La Panthère d’eau.
“They bring a really unique look at storytelling in this particular performance…” said Halliday. “They are telling a story of the history in a way that builds not just understanding but an appreciation of the beauty and depth of artistic experience that First Nations communities have had for hundreds and hundreds of years.”
To wrap up Spotlight next spring, Venezuela singer Nella will make an appearance on April 16, and Ukrainian “underground ethno punk” cabaret Dakh Daughters can be caught on April 26.
Additional season and ticket information can be found at www.porttheatre.com.