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Show review: Rebecca Thomas and Symphony Nova Scotia reach farther together

The famed poet/activist pushes classical music into new realms as she debuts We're Not Done Drumming.

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Rebecca Thomas is a former Poet Laureate of Halifax and outspoken advocate for a host of Indigenous issues. - MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • MEGHAN TANSEY WHITTON
  • Rebecca Thomas is a former Poet Laureate of Halifax and outspoken advocate for a host of Indigenous issues.
Symphony Nova Scotia presented ‘Melody and Poetry With Rebecca Thomas’ in its Masterworks Series on Nov 7. The concert blended melodic classical repertoire (think Mozart Symphony No.34 in C major and Brahms Symphony No.2 in D major) with We’re Not Done Drumming, a new poetic and musical collaboration between poet Rebecca Thomas and composer Laura Sgroi.

Nova Scotia audiences are by now familiar with the ongoing contribution of Rebecca Thomas to public life. Elder Billy Lewis set the tone for the evening by telling us he was present in support of Thomas—and directing our attention to her message that creates a pathway for cultural and environmental progress in Mi’kma’ki.

Conductor Holly Mathieson, in her second guest appearance with SNS this year, praised the Thomas/Sgroi work. The audience agreed; the performance, poet and composer were very warmly received. Equally engaging and appreciated were the Symphony performances of Mozart (a prodigy in a different context) and Brahms (beautiful composer extraordinaire) introduced by Mathieson. It was a highly enjoyable and horizon-expanding evening, as evidenced by the happy comments and droves heading to the post-concert reception.

We communicate what is beautiful, challenging and important to us through the arts. We rely upon arts organizations to bring forward artistic work for appreciation, illumination, and adjudication. This program added to a rhythm the Symphony has began building—first with a cameo appearance of Emma Stevens singing her Mik’maq translation of “Blackbird” in the Beatles-themed concert in Oct 25-27 and then with Jeremy Dutcher’s Oct 17 showcase Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa—which gives artists new audiences and experiences, introduces Symphony-goers to new-to-them artists and, overall, extends the reach of the Symphony.

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