Jonathan Russell MacArthur

Meet our new Interim General Manager

By | AtG in the News, Behind the scenes | No Comments

Our fabulous General Manager Joanna Barrotta is taking some time away from AtG — as she’s making an exciting move to the Hammer! But we’re happy to announce that Jonathan MacArthur will be stepping in as Interim GM. You may have seen him both in performance and administrative roles around town: he was most recently the GM of FAWN Chamber Creative, and has worked with Tapestry Opera.  Please join us in welcoming Jon!

“I’m over the moon to be a member of AtG, and am ready to get my feet wet! This is an incredible opportunity for me as an arts administrator, and I am totally thrilled and honoured to call myself an Against the Grain-er. I look forward to being a part of one of Toronto’s hottest opera gangs, and can’t wait to bring Bohème back to this city’s devoted opera goers.”

Jonathan MacArthur is known as both a producer and performer in the Toronto arts scene. He is a Masters graduate of the University of Toronto Opera program, and has studied abroad at the Rimsky-Korsakov Conservatory and the Saint-Petersburg State University in Russia. He is a passionate performer of the Baroque and New Music genres, and was an ensemble member of AtG’s Dora Award winning performance of AtG’s Messiah. Having worked closely with FAWN Chamber Creative, and Tapestry Opera, Jonathan adds another colourful feather to his Indie Opera TO hat as interim General Manager at AtG.

Against the Grain Theatre Ayre, starring Miriam Khalil. Photo: Darryl Block

The reviews are in: Ayre

By | AtG in the News, Ayre, Press | No Comments

"Ayre is a perfect and tremendously satisfying example of cultural transcendence."

− The Globe and Mail

"The stars aligned with this project... Miriam's authenticity is palpable, whether in the romantic songs or the call to uprising."

− barczablog

"Khalil's performance is stunning, and to hear her sing Golijov's work adds a new level of admiration for her versatility."

− Schmopera

"This performance was that rare thing that raises the hairs on the back of your neck."

− Opera Ramblings

"An evening of power and resonance, the kind of which deep memories are fashioned."

− The Globe and Mail

"Shocking, brilliant, thrilling. It's all conquering, a concert production of major importance, a flawless synchronicity of music and theatre."

− Opera Going Toronto

"Miriam Khalil is spellbinding, her voice at turns lustrous and radiant, savage and snarling."

− Opera Going Toronto

"Like the whole audience, I was suspended in this stasis of stirred emotion — the repercussions of which were felt long after the final bows were taken."

− Schmopera


Invited by Ivany to address the audience on opening night, the shy, softspoken composer Osvaldo Golijov remarked, eyes twinkling, “Nations play a lot of different roles in history. Conflicts, they stay the same. Only the actors are different.”

By promoting Golijov’s vision of culture as a permeable wrapper, Against the Grain Theatre has injected a much needed dose of optimism into these uncertain times. Ayre is filled with spirit, soaring, crushed, defiant. But hope like Golijov’s music has a way of insinuating itself into the soul. We need to hear the message. Now more than ever.

—Ian Ritchie


Read more reviews and previews:

In Review: Ayre Schmopera

Review: Ayre | Opera Going Toronto

Against the Grain’s Ayre is a vital reminder that unity is possible | The Globe and Mail

Ayre: An Evening with Osvaldo Golijov | Opera Ramblings

Review: Ayre | barczablog

Don’t miss Ayre | Schmopera

Against the Grain’s Ayre to deliver powerful evening of cultural mash-ups | The Globe and Mail

Critic’s Pick | Musical Toronto

What to see this week in Toronto | Toronto Life

Genres fused in Ayre | WholeNote Magazine


Everything You Need to Know About Attending Ayre

By | Ayre | No Comments

We’re looking forward to seeing you at Ayre

Doors open at 7:30pm. Part I of our concert (three short works by Osvaldo Golijov) begins at 8pm; there is a 20-minute intermission and Part II, our fully staged presentation of Ayre, begins at 9:20pm.


Please note: This email is not your ticket. Check your inbox for your electronic tickets from TicketLeap, which you can print or display to us on your phone/tablet for entry. (In the TicketLeap email, click the link “Download the barcode ticket”.)

I want to buy more tickets

About the Ismaili Centre

Set within a 6.8 hectare park, the Ismaili Centre shares a site with the Aga Khan Museum—and both have been acclaimed as twin masterpieces, designed by two of the world’s greatest architects: Charles Correa of Mumbai and Fumihiko Maki of Japan.

The entire complex is a harmonious union of the spiritual, artistic and natural worlds, and a space designed for reflection, gathering, and celebration.


Getting here

The Ismaili Centre
49 Wynford Drive
Toronto, ON M3C 1K1

By car (Free parking!)

The Ismaili Centre has two parking lots which they are offering to Ayreticket-holders at no cost (so ignore those pay-parking machines). We recommend parking in the spacious, underground parking lot. Access this lot by entering the Ismaili Centre drive and making a right. Attendants will be on hand to direct you.


From Eglington Subway Station, take the 34C Eglinton East bus, which stops just outside the Ismaili Centre.


The Ismaili Centre’s entrance is fully accessible. Drive up the valet parkade and stop for a direct drop-off if desired.

What to expect

Wander through sacred halls

Ayre: An Evening of Osvaldo Golijov is actually an immersive, two-part experience. “Part I” of our evening features a promenade of music and art: you’ll walk down sacred halls to experience an exhibition by artist Jamelie Hassan and a special concert of three short works by the composer, performed by the Glenn Gould Ensemble and sopranos Adanya Dunn and Ellen McAteer. After a short intermission, we begin “Part II”, our staged presentation of Ayre.

Discover Part I

Refreshments and snacks

Enjoy complimentary coffee, tea, mango & pomegranate juice, lemon water and delicious Middle Eastern cookies — courtesy our wonderful hosts at the Ismaili Centre.


Take photos and live-tweet before the performance, during intermission, and after the performance. (Just no audio or video recording, please.) Use the hashtag #AtGAyre and @atgtheatre on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.

What to read

In many worlds at the same time

In 2004, Osvaldo Golijov wrote his song cycle Ayre for a voice nobody had heard before. Toronto writer Nikita Gourski recounts the music’s criss-crossing pilgrimage from the mind of an Argentine-Jewish composer-in-exile to the voice of a Lebanese-Canadian soprano.

The history of Ayre


Check out these articles and previews

Against the Grain’s Ayre to deliver powerful evening of cultural mash-ups | The Globe and Mail

Critic’s Pick | Musical Toronto

What to see this week in Toronto | Toronto Life

Genres fused in Ayre | WholeNote Magazine


Read the house program Read the libretto



Photos: Ismaili Centre by Gary Otte; Video by Half-Inch’d Films; Part I of Ayre by Darryl Block

Osvaldo Golijov - Alt - Photo John Sann

In many worlds at the same time

By | Ayre | No Comments

In 2004, the Argentine-born composer Osvaldo Golijov wrote his song cycle Ayre for a voice nobody had heard before.

The voice was famous and celebrated, belonging to American soprano Dawn Upshaw, but it had never sounded like this, with rich shades of darkness and flashes of menace—even violence—intermingling with the purity and angelic stillness that was more typical of her identity as a vocalist.

Ayre—which Upshaw sang at its world premiere in 2004—required her to assume a plurality of emotional registers, while summoning, at Golijov’s urging, something darker and unexplored from within. After recording the song cycle for Deutsche Grammophon in 2005, she told music writer John Schaefer: “I never knew I had a lot of these voices [in me until Golijov wrote the music]. I don’t understand how he knew I could even make certain sounds without hearing them first.”

When soprano Miriam Khalil first heard the recording of Ayre, she was instantly transfixed, both on a personal level and as a singer.

Especially because some of the material wasn’t new to her. Traditional Arabic songs, “Wa Habibi” and “Aiini taqtiru,” which Golijov had arranged for the middle section of Ayre, had been a part of Miriam’s childhood in Ottawa ever since she and her family had settled there after emigrating from Syria. In the nation’s capital, at the Melkite Catholic Church, she heard those two songs “every single year of my life” during Easter mass. It would prove to be a valuable experience to draw on this past summer, as she plunged into Ayre as a performer at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

When I called Golijov to ask about Miriam’s performance in Ayre, he observed, “It’s very interesting. I wrote [the song cycle] with Dawn [Upshaw] so much in my mind, but Miriam takes it to a whole new place.

“The fact that she speaks Arabic from her childhood makes the Arabic sound very true. But also every other song she sings, there is this torrential power in her voice. That’s something that I love. Even when she restrains it, you can sense the energy and the undercurrent, that tension between sometimes singing very intimately but with that wonderful and sweeping undercurrent.”

“The first thing [Osvaldo] told me,” Miriam recalled, “was ‘I don’t want it to sound like opera at all. These are folk songs.’”

The experience of hearing Ayre for the first time is both vivid and disorienting.

Golijov has called it a “forest that can grow in all directions;” a diary that explores “the music I inhabit;” and a journey, in both spiritual and geographic terms. Eleven folk songs chart a pilgrimage along the Mediterranean coast, moving from southern Spain to Italy to Jerusalem (with two small detours to Argentina through original compositions by guitarist, producer, and frequent Golijov-collaborator Gustavo Santaolalla). That the cycle begins in southern Spain during a moment of cross-cultural harmony (Jews, Arabs, and Christians lived in relative peace on the Iberian Peninsula until the Alhambra Decree of 1492 expelled non-Catholics from Spain) poignantly connects with our current reality of massive dislocation and refugee migration.

Most of the melodies are based on traditional material from Jewish, Arabic, and Christian cultures. The earliest texts date back to the 12th century. The sung languages include Arabic, Hebrew, Spanish, Sardinian, and Ladino (a nearly extinct vernacular spoken by Sephardic Jews in 15th-century Spain). It’s a living history of musical echoings and borrowings, of deeply personal routes of exile criss-crossing the boundaries of language, time, and the shifting ground of one’s own identity. The atmospheric multiplicity of the piece is dazzling: it veers from the semi-chaos of a medieval street fair to the tenderness of a lullaby (whose quiet words belie the uncanny terror of the text); from an angry mob alive with violence, to a mother’s ethereal voice in the night offering comfort to her child.

“My constant state of exile defines who I am.”

Golijov told me during our conversation: “Even when I was a child in Argentina, I was living in many worlds at the same time.”

Those worlds included European classical music, traditional Jewish and klezmer songs, as well as the new forms of tango emerging from the composer Astor Piazzolla, whose performances Golijov experienced live in Argentina.

If it was an eclectic musical education, it also imbued Golijov with the belief that authentic creation was not the exclusive provenance of European capitals and centres; that other places on the world map had a legitimate stake in the project of musical expression. Meanwhile, under the regime of General Videla, Golijov became increasingly aware that his Jewishness was incompatible with Argentina’s powerful elite, and moved to Jerusalem. He lost his home, but gained a vital encounter with Arabic music and language, slotting it into the ever-expanding cosmos of his orbiting influences.

The simultaneity of Golijov’s different worlds is acutely felt and heard in Ayre.

The klezmer of American clarinettist David Krakauer, the folk songs of Lebanese superstar Fairuz, the climbing scales of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis all intermingle with traditional melodies of manifold origins. Similarly Golijov’s arrangements deploy not only traditional chamber instruments but also ones like the ronroco (a small Andean guitar), and the laptop, grafting the new with the old, and setting many worlds in motion at the same time.

The perceptual mode of simultaneity manifests itself another way. In a late trilogy of songs, Golijov layers the verse of Mahmoud Darwish, the national Palestinian poet, with work from Yehudah Halevi, the 12th-century Jewish poet of exile. Nine hundred years of history evaporate as the Jewish poet from the medieval era and the eloquent voice of the nationless Palestinian people seem to recognize each other—suspended in a human oneness that is simultaneously solid and dissolving, of two worlds at once.

Nikita Gourski is a Toronto-based editor, writer and opera enthusiast. He hails from Belarus.

Photo: Osvaldo Golijov by John Sann

New video: Behind the scenes of Ayre

By | Ayre, Video | No Comments

“It’s important for [Toronto’s classical music scene] to get outside their comfort zone and reflect the diversity of the city.”

Lebanese-Canadian soprano Miriam Khalil and director Joel Ivany stopped by the Ismaili Centre Toronto to explore the cultural threads of Osvaldo Golijov’s electric song cycle Ayre. (The title in medieval Spanish means “air” in both the sense of “song” and the air we breathe.)

Ayre: An Evening of Osvaldo Golijov is presented in partnership with the Aga Khan Council for Canada, and the Glenn Gould School of the Royal Conservatory of Music.

Tickets selling quickly – only one(ish) week left to purchase!
November 10–12  8pm
Ismaili Centre, 49 Wynford Drive, Toronto


Video Production by Half-Inch’d Films

Director/Editor Andrew Martin-Smith

Director of Photography Adrian Merritt Smith

Ismaili Centre Toronto by Amanda Hadi

A performance that lets you wander through a sacred hall

By | Ayre | No Comments

Our upcoming performance Ayre: An Evening of Osvaldo Golijov is actually an immersive experience. Upon your arrival to the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, you’ll be taken to various parts of the hall to experience “Part I” of our evening. This includes Jamelie Hassan’s exhibition Light Upon Light, and special concert of three of the composer’s short works performed by the Glenn Gould Ensemble and sopranos Adanya Dunn and Ellen McAteer. Surrounded by Islamic art and architecture, from centuries-old tapestries to contemporary mosaics and intricately carved ivory walls, you’ll be transfixed and transported by the evening.

Yiddishbbuk (1992)

“A broken song played on a shattered cimbalom.” Thus, writes Kafka, begins Yiddishbbuk, a collection of apocryphal psalms. Golijov attempts to reconstruct that disappeared music, creating a three-movement work “in the mode of the Babylonic Lamentations.”

Lúa Descolorida (2002)

Based on a poem by 19th-century romanticist María Rosalía de Castro and written in Gallego (the language of Spain’s Galician region), this haunting nocturne is sung by a lover to the moon.

Tenebrae (2002)

Golijov imagined this music “as the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript.” Melismatic elongations of syllables from the Hebrew alphabet signal the beginning of new chapters, leading to the ending section built around a single, repeated word: “Jerusalem.”


Buy tickets to Ayre (November 10, 11, 12 2016)


WholeNote Magazine: “Genres fused in Ayre”

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Christopher Hoile writes in the latest issue of WholeNote Magazine:

“A third production in November also breaks contemporary notions of genre. This is the song cycle Ayre (2004) by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov (born 1960) presented by Against the Grain Theatre from November 10 to 12 at the Ismaili Centre. The title in medieval Spanish means “air” in both the sense of “song” and the air we breathe. The song cycle is a juxtaposition of Arabic, Hebrew, Sardinian and Sephardic folk melodies and texts. The soloist will be Miriam Khalil accompanied by an 11-member ensemble with stage direction by AtG founder and artistic director Joel Ivany and lighting by Jason Hand. Golijov, Ivany and Khalil all met at Banff this past summer and Golijov sat in on rehearsals of the piece. Though not an opera, critics have repeatedly called the work “dramatic.” Ivany says this is the first time anyone has “taken the work a step further” by staging it. He says, “Miriam will have memorized the entire piece and will thus be free to use movement and gesture to illuminate the texts and to tie them together visually.” Ivany is excited that Golijov plans to attend the first two of the performances in Toronto.”

Against the Grain Theatre Opera Pub

Opera Pub returns November 3

By | Opera Pub | No Comments

We weren’t sure what to expect at our inaugural Opera Pub event. But last Thursday, more than 100 music fans, and friends (and a handful of folks who had no idea what they were in for) turned up at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club to hear some Friends of AtG Sing the Operatic Hits.

A huge thanks to performers Krisztina Szabó, Aaron Durand, Stephanie Tritchew, Clarence Frazer, Cait Wood and John Brancy, and maestro Topher Mokrzewski, who banged out the tunes on our newly-bought Craigslist piano.

“A packed house of opera enthusiasts were reminded of the joys of spontaneous music-making at Against the Grain Theatre’s first edition of Opera Pub, their new series of casual concerts where you can experience music in a different space with a beer in hand and not many rules…. It had the feeling of an after party when musicians kicked back, loosened up and playfully made music with their friends.”—Musical Toronto

“It was loud, it was fun and the audience, not all of whom I suspect knew what they were in for, stayed.”—Opera Ramblings

Opera Pubs run the first Thursday of every Month

The next event:
November 3, 2016 at 9pm
Amsterdam Bicycle Club
To sign up to sing, email
RSVP to our Facebook event

John Brancy with Topher Mokrzewski Opera Pub

John Brancy with Topher Mokrzewski

Impromptu waltz time with Caitlin Wood and Clarence Frazer Opera Pub

Impromptu waltz time with Caitlin Wood and Clarence Frazer

atg volunteers

Work with AtG!

By | Ayre, Volunteer | No Comments

We’re looking for friendly and outgoing volunteers for Ayre (November 10, 11, 12), taking place at the Ismaili Centre, Toronto. This is your chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at our production process, learn from our crew, hear fantastic music and, of course, hang out with some awesome people. To get involved for one, two, or as many performances as you like, email us here! (And don’t forget to tag/share with any friends who might be interested.)

Photo: Brent Calis

Joel Ivany

Joel in the North

By | Joel Ivany | No Comments

I have always wondered about the North.  

We, of course, learned about the Northwest Territories in school and since, I’ve always wondered what was up there.  

In University, I was fortunate enough to cycle (yes, bicycle) across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax. We missed some parts that I’ve vowed to visit in the future and now, thankfully, one of those is crossed off the list.

This past Friday to Tuesday, I travelled to Yellowknife, NWT, and met many wonderful people who each asked me: “Why are you here?”

I came up North for a few reasons.  I wanted to see what the North was like.  I wanted to see what the art scene was like.  I wanted to meet Indigenous peoples and find out what they thought about Canada. I wanted to be more Canadian.

The past year, I’ve slowly become more and more intensely aware of the people that were here on this land, have always been on this land before others showed up and kind of messed it up. I heard and read about “cultural genocide” and couldn’t believe that residential schools were a real thing in Canada.  You see, they weren’t a part of my Canadian History lessons. Could Canada have been so intentionally evil and cruel?  I was shocked to read that the church was a part of this story. They wanted to“save the Indians,” convert the “savages.” One of the lessons I learned growing up was to spread the Gospel to all ends of the earth. I’m sure there was good intention, but at what cost?

So, I flew to Yellowknife with an open heart and mind.  

Facebook came through and I was immediately connected with several incredible people who made me feel at home. On the flight from Edmonton, I struck up conversation with the people beside me.  They, of course, knew Carmen Braden (a composer who was picking me up at the airport), they asked if I knew Leela Gilday (whom I was meeting up with later in the week) which caused the row in front of us to mention that they were neighbours with Carmen and one woman had heard about me through her daughter, my new Facebook friend Kyla. Small world.

Joel Ivany

Joel about to board a 1954 Cessna 170 B

Carmen Braden is a Yellowknifer, composer and gifted young musician who has had her music played by ensembles across Canada and is about to release her first album.  Over lunch she talked about the NWT, arts councils, composing for ensembles like the Gryphon Trio and why she loved living in Yellowknife. Above all, Carmen is a fantastic human.

I stayed with a wonderful family, a couple from Nova Scotia and Australia, who had met backpacking and of course ended up living in Yellowknife. We visited the local brew pub, where I met many new people.  Jean, fixes planes part-time and thought that Hal would be a good guy to reach out to. So of course I did, calling him the next morning.  Hal (never did learn his last name) had a small 2-seater plane and the following morning he was more than willing to take me up for a ride.  

Hal has been in Yellowknife for 40 years (not from Yellowknife, a common theme) and had tried to live elsewhere, but the North always called him back.  We went flying in a 1954 Cessna 170 B. Never done that before. The flight was smoother than I anticipated, and we flew for almost 2 hours all around Yellowknife.  NWT has a lot of lakes, a lot of rock, a lot of trees, hardly any billboards, and really not that many people.  Yellowknife, the largest city in NWT has a population of 20,000 (the average attendees at one hockey game in Toronto).  Hal rocked.  I shook his hand at the end, knowing most likely that I’d never meet him again and just said, “Thank you.”

Joel Ivany

Joel and Hal

With time still left in the day, I drove to Behchoko, which is about an hours drive from Yellowknife.  It is one of the largest Dene (aboriginal group) communities in Canada (population of around 2000).  It is a self-governed, dry community.  Driving through, I felt like I was prying into their lives but was so glad to have seen it.  There’s a school, children, lots of trucks and no restaurants or Starbucks.  This is one of the larger communities of at least 30 that are in the NWT.  

Sunday morning I met with Debbie DeLancey who is the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services with the Government of the Northwest Territories.  Debbie was awesome (another common Yellowknife theme), and most likely because she had seen the Carmen I directed at the COC this past spring.  She made me feel like a superstar.  An avid opera fan, she has been up North for 40 years and of course, knew everyone I had met thus far and everyone I was going to meet.  We talked about why she was advocating for the North, what the challenges were for the government and indigenous communities and how we can get Against the Grain Theatre to come to Yellowknife.  I’m all for that.  Before long she had connected me two more people and promises that we’d meet again sometime in the future.

The afternoon was spent at The Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, a lot more Canadian History that I didn’t know or remember and a heartbreaking exhibition by Robert Burke about his experience at a Residential School.  

Joel Ivany

Painting by Robert Burke from his exhibit My Residential School Experience

I was picked up by Kyla Kakfwi-Scott (my new FB friend) and her husband Amos Scott (a born and raised Tlicho northerner).  They took me for a driving tour of Yellowknife and answered every question I had about their community, life in Yellowknife and being indigenous in Canada.  A couple that was my age, I found their belief system and heritage beautiful.  Amos has worked for CBC in the past and is a filmmaker.  Here is the first episode in a series he made which illustrates life in Behchoko and the Dene people.  I was very thankful for my time with Kyla and Amos.

Dene A Journey Season 1, Episode 1- A Modern Tlicho Life from Dene A Journey on Vimeo.

The trip kept going with the Annual General Meeting for Music NWT, an advocacy group for Northern musicians.  A 13 years old entity, it was fascinating to hear their history, where they are now and who they aspire to be.  Their structure, Strat planning and governance was very similar to Against the Grain and it brought an awareness of our AtG team in Toronto and how much we’ve accomplished in so little time.  I was so happy to attend this small meeting of 15 people and so proud of our team back in Toronto.  

Post meeting was a pre-booked Northern Lights tour.  From 9pm–3am, I was out in a group of 40 led by our tour guide, Deneze (who was awesome).  Deneze, also Dene, spoke passionately about his people, had a wicked sense of humour and is someone I knew I’d be friends with if we lived in the same city.  Out of the 40-ish people on the tour, I was the only Canadian.  I asked Joe, another guide how many Canadians came on the Northern Lights tours, which have become extremely popular in the last few years.  He said about 1%, as the largest market is Japanese.  

Joel Ivany

Carmen Braden at the AGM for Music NWT

Following morning, Pat Braden was next on my artist tour.  Pat is a bass guitarist and one of the few musicians in the world to play the Chapman Stick (look it up).  He spent his youth honing his craft at local bars in Yellowknife, which had live music 6 nights a week.  What I took from my time with Pat, was an artist’s heart is an artist’s heart.  He can’t envision himself doing anything else and is committed to craft and skill. He’s been in Yellowknife for 40 years (theme here) and has lived in the same Shack (his words) for 30 years where he raised his two daughters with his wife.

Leela Gilday is Dene and born and raised in Yellowknife.  She is a talented singer/songwriter who has won a Juno award for Aboriginal Album of the Year.  She’s one of the leading aboriginal singers in Canada and was classically trained having spent one year in Toronto singing in the Toronto Children’s Chorus and has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Alberta.  I spoke to Leela about opera, being indigenous and why she moved back home to Yellowknife (another common theme).  Family, advocating for youth in rural communities and strong ties to the North were big reasons.  We talked about Canada’s 150th celebration and some of the concerts she will and won’t necessarily be playing.  Celebrating Canada can come with mixed emotions.  It was a great chat and I take from it a better understanding of life as a current artist living in Yellowknife.  The rest of my day was spent driving to another community, Detah and reading more about the Truth and Reconciliation report that was filed just last year.

That evening…dinner at a hotel…served by Skye who recognized me from having ushered at the Four Season Centre and asked about Carmen.  CRAAAAAZY small world.

Joel Ivany

Northern Arts and Culture Centre

The last piece of my journey was spent with Marie Coderre at the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre.  Marie, originally from Quebec, has been at NACC since 2012.  A strong, passionate and kind woman in her early 30’s, we bonded immediately through our connection with Roman Borys and the Gryphon Trio.  The Gryphons have come up to Yellowknife three times touring to various rural communities.  For them to continue to travel up here and work with these communities speaks volumes about the nature of their hearts.  

Marie gave me a tour of NACC, a 300 seat theatre which has programming 10 months of the year.  They bring artists from around Canada and also present local shows.  Marie and I connected over grants, budgets, programming and the draw of the North.  I left with a strong understanding of the art scene which she is trying to present and change.  Yellowknife is the largest city of the NWT, but the NACC represents a Centre for all of the NWT and she has a strong desire to tour to the many communities in the NWT.  I can see her moving up the artistic admin ladder in this country very quickly.  

Before I knew it, my time in Yellowknife was over.  I return to Toronto feeling like this short intense trip will affect my work over the coming few years.  It has impacted my identity in a new way.  I feel like we are always wanting to know who we are, as individuals and as a collective.

I now feel like my identity as a Canadian is missing something.  As a group of people, we aren’t what I thought we were.  We were emerging as a very proud Nation.  Proud of our strengths (arts, sport, welcoming spirit).  We’ve invited refugees from Syria, embraced the many cultures to create an incredible multi-cultural scene, we’ve opened our homes and said “Welcome.”  We’re doing a much better job now, having learned from our mistakes, but we can’t excuse, ignore or forget the past.  We have a lot to unpack which I am just experiencing.  We were the ones that arrived on this land.  We were the visitors.  We were the ones that came with a new plan.  I find it very difficult to celebrate that, to celebrate our 150 years of being a country (the True North strong and free).

I strongly encourage anyone who is interested in the North (or Canada) to go.  Go with an open mind and an open heart.  I’m interested to see where this journey leads me and us as a country.