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Northern songs

Capturing 20 years of music

Michele LeTourneau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 22/00) - Twenty years ago, CBC North staged the first True North concert. Held in Iqaluit, then Frobisher Bay, it was supposed to be a one-time event.

It evolved into a series of concerts, the last one held in Whitehorse in 1998.

It's been two years, but regional director of television Cathie Bolstad remembers it very well. It coincided with her very first days of working for CBC North.

"I was just in awe," said Bolstad. "I can remember tears streaming down my face."

She remembers the wide range of talent. She remembers the power of the performances.

Budgetary concerns may have pushed True North to the back burner, but it's never far from anyone's consciousness.

"We are looking at doing something," said Bolstad.

"It would be premature to say there will be a concert but we are talking about doing a stage for our Northern performers."

For Bolstad, the True North concerts help bridge the gaps between the various Northern cultures, and helped raise awareness of the North throughout Canada.

"The concerts have enabled Canadians to see what the North has to offer."

Keeping the concert memory alive, CBC North has released a compilation CD and video. Called Truly Something, the projects encompass several years of Northern musical accomplishment.

With so many songs to choose from, former regional director Marie Wilson and producer Keith MacNeill surely did not have an easy time choosing the final cuts.

Kashtin and Susan Aglukark are probably the two most famous names on this recording. The beautiful voices and melodies of Tudjaat -- cousins Madeline Allakariallak and Phoebe Atagoyuk -- also made it onto the CD.

In addition to the 19 songs from various concerts, two additional songs were commissioned by CBC North.

In one, Dene singer Leela Gilday, of Yellowknife, and Inuit singer Lucie Idlout, of Iqaluit, teamed up to create For this Land. The power of the piece comes as much from the women's talents as from the idea of the two new territories pairing up in this creative moment.

"What the video has that the CD doesn't have is a wonderful piece with Leela and Lucie talking about working on this song together. There are landscapes of the North that take the viewer beyond the performances..." said Bolstad.

Other performers include Yukon artist Matthew Lien, Paul Andrew (Focus North and Northbeat), Aupilarjuk, an elder from Rankin Inlet, The Peters Drury Trio, and a duet of Yellowknife fiddler Lee Mandeville teamed up with Northern Quebec accordion player Andrew Attagutaluk.