Reading by Ear: Labrador Inuit Musical Literacy and Aurality - Tom Gordon
4:45 PM, Friday 4 Oct 2019 (30 minutes)
Sherbrooke Pavilion (SH) - SH-3260
Even before the first mission station had been established at Nain on the Labrador coast, the Moravians sang hymns as a way of engaging the Inuit with their Christian culture. Among the earliest printed publications was a volume which contained the words, but not the music for a hundred Moravian hymns translated into Inuktitut. The Inuit rapidly committed not only the melodies, but the harmonies of these ancient hymns to memory and laid the foundation for a music practice that would rely equally on the ability to read music and prodigious aural memory. By the mid-nineteenth century choirs, accompanied by Inuit string players and organists, emerged in the Labrador mission stations, performing elaborate anthems by European classical music composers of the day. Across more than a century this vast repertoire has been transmitted through a mentorship process that involved a hybrid of music reading and aural memory. This tradition and its transmission is explored through archival documents and the experiences of contemporary tradition-bearers.