introducing andrew balfour

Andrew_Balfour1_shadow_bwWe are delighted to introduce the TPM audience to Andrew Balfour, the Music and Sound Designer for Reservations. His accomplishments are numerous. Of Cree descent, Balfour has written a body of more than 40 choral, instrumental and orchestral works. He is also the founder and Artistic Director of Camerata Nova ,where he specializes in creating “concept concerts” exploring a theme through an eclectic choice of music, including new works and innovative inter-genre and interdisciplinary collaborations. Andrew took a few minutes out of his busy schedule to answer some question for us about his life, work and inspiration.

How did you begin your life as a musician?

I was adopted at 6 months of age,  by blood family is from Fisher River First Nation.  My adoptive family was loving and supportive,  and recognized at an early age that I had musical potential.  I learned music through an intensive music program through our family church (father was an Anglican Priest),  and through this program was able to learn and love music,  including traveling to England several times in the summer to sing in English Cathedrals.  gaining instrumental scholarships,  and gaining lifelong friends.

What are some main inspirations for your work?                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

The main inspiration of my work is the sound of the human voice,  along with the soundscapes of of environment.

You recently created a piece for the Winnipeg New Music Festival based on testimonies from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. How do you think art can help heal the painful legacy of racism and abuse suffered by Canada’s First Nations?
Art and music is so important for aboriginal voices, especially in this time,  Canada has a long and rich history of aboriginal artisans,  but I’ve always felt the general population of Canada only see’s ‘Beads and Feathers’ when they think of Aboriginal artists.  The new ideas with aboriginal artists are so widespread and far reaching that we are finding a new voice to express important issues,  as well as expressing our inner pain,  joy, sadness,  life and death.

What challenges you about working on Reservations? What excites you?
The challenges in writing for Reservations is the subject matter,  as personally it opens up old wounds and thoughts about my heritage and background.  What it means to me to be Aboriginal.  It is the right time for me to work on this play.

Any interesting projects coming up for you?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

My next big project is performing Take the Indian at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights on May 25. Take the Indian is a work for Chamber choir,  cello and wounded Indian.  Its inspiration (if I can use that word here) draws from the testimony I heard in 2012 at the Winnipeg TRC (Truth and Reconciliation Commission).  The hours of testimony from the survivors was one of the most moving and emotional events I’ve ever witnessed.  I always felt I wanted to write a piece based on this national tragedy.

What do you do when you’re not creating art?                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

When I’m not writing music, which isn’t often these days,  but I’m a huge hockey fan and a life long Habs fan!