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Spirit of the Narrows

Last evening we went to see Anne Lederman’s Spirit of the Narrows at the Small World Music theatre, a cozy space on Shaw St. we had never been to before. This two-person play is about First Nations and Métis people in Manitoba told through Anne Lederman’s personal experience, hearing a tape of a Métis fiddler, wondering about this “crooked” music with its enthusiastic foot stomping, and going to rural Manitoba to meet, record and try to understand the music and the people making it.

Anne Lederman played herself, various fiddlers and others. Capucine Onn played young Anne. It was a very well-conceived show, punctuated by excellent fiddling by both players. Anne Lederman is originally from Manitoba, but she’s a well-known Toronto performer, having been a founding member of Muddy York  and also the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band. She has also played with other bands and has a number of her own CD’s out, plus she teaches fiddling in Toronto.

Capucine Onn is from Blyth Ontario. She started playing violin very early at age 2. She plays in a band called Jellybean Blue and teaches Suzuki violin and voice in Huron County.

The play offered a unique and respectful taste of Métis culture through the efforts of a non-native fiddler to gain some understanding of the culture through the music. She was clearly very aware of her outsider status when visiting the fiddlers, and notes in the play she sometimes was not sure if she was welcome or not. It seemed the degree to which she was let in had much to do with the fact that she was an accomplished fiddler.

Spirit of the Narrows had some great musical performances, and it was an inventive way for Anne Lederman to tell her story. I found the music to be very compelling and for reasons I cannot explain, some of the tunes caused me to tear up.

This was the first time Spirit of the Narrows played in Toronto – while I’d like to recommend it, unfortunately last night was the last of a very limited number of performances.

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