MORRISBURG – “Listening to Susan Aglukark’s music is the closest one can get to hearing the heartbeat of our country. Her voice will bring us together and inspire us.”
Senator Bernadette Clement, former Cornwall mayor, spoke these words during the outstanding concert by a national icon, Inuk singer/songwriter Susan Aglukark: Clement seemed to be echoing what many in the huge crowd clearly felt. They were here to enjoy a memorable live performance by one of Canada’s great musical treasures.
Morrisburg’s Stone Crop Acres Winery, in collaboration with Harmony Concerts, hosted a live concert by this renowned artist on its welcoming grounds, outside, under the stars, on Friday, October 15.
However, even before Aglukark took to the stage backed by a four piece band, the Winery had a special surprise for the audience. Local singer Lori-Anne VanMoorsel opened the concert.
It was an exciting moment for the singer, who possesses a strong, resonating voice and an easy-going manner on stage. Her delivery of Adele’s ‘Feel My Love’ demonstrated her deep emotional range. An hilarious parody of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, sung to Stone Crop owner (and Lori-Anne’s boss) ‘Noreen’ had the crowd cheering. They also clapped along to ‘Heartache Tonight’ : then daughter Hilary danced to another song. Lori-Anne finished her set with a moving, a cappella version of Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah,’ dedicated to her mother Dini. It was a memorable debut.
When a vibrant Susan Aglukark came out on the stage, greeting the audience in English and the Inuit language, the crowd was ecstatic.
Her concert at the Winery showcased music from Aglukark’s earliest days as a performer right up to the present. She is actually preparing to release her tenth album, Crossings, in January, 2022. Throughout the evening, she shared memories and feelings with the crowd. As she explained in an earlier Leader interview, she is a teller of stories, and one who seeks to share stories of the Ancestors, and of her heritage, with those “who want to listen.” Her music often reflects the reality of life for Indigenous people. “Why would you pick the perfect flower/When you could have watched it grow” she sang, from the album Arctic Rose.
The music Aglukark performs comes out of her experiences growing up in the Far North within the Inuit culture. There were many years when she doubted herself, “did what I was told to do,” lost her hold on her heritage for a time. She had to “find the courage to stand up, to latch on to the original stories. I thought, what do I really know about my story? I decided my career could not be about one person: it had to revolve around several Indigenous groups.” From this personal journey into the world of the Ancestors came songs like The Hunting that Made a Boy a Man, and the music of the Bering Strait crossing.
Throughout the evening her songs invited people to laugh, to clap along, to reflect, to learn. During ‘O Siem’, one of Aglukark’s huge national hits, the audience broke into spontaneous applause.
She did not shy away from difficult themes, openly talking and singing about the hard realities of life for many Indigenous populations. But she was also hopeful, optimistic, welcoming the desire of other Canadians to help, to change old attitudes and beliefs. “Speak gently,” she said, “but sometimes not so gently. There must be a spirit of forgiveness or we can never heal.”
The poetry of her songs clearly reached the audience. When she sang “No matter the road, a path will always be revealed/A bit of me, a bit of you/ The path becomes a guiding light because you walk with me…” she inspired hope.
Later she laughed, “Thank God for music. I wouldn’t be who I am without music. I love singing, songwriting, and I want to keep doing this.”
And judging from the cheers and ovations as she finished her Morrisburg concert with the joyous Dene Celebration Song, audiences would also like Inuk artist Susan Aglukark to continue to sing on, a voice for all of Canada.