“In The (Post) Mistress, you see Highway’s idea of beauty – a Peruvian-Canadian from Northern Ontario singing to a Brazilian beat in an indigenous language. It is a beautiful vision.” — J. Kelly Nestruck (Globe and Mail Review, Oct. 21st, 2016)
“English is so hierarchical. In Cree, we don’t have animate-inanimate comparisons between things. Animals have souls that are equal to ours. Rocks have souls, trees have souls. Trees are ‘who,’ not ‘what.” – Tomson Highway
Songs in the Key of Cree is a compilation of songs written over the past thirty years by Cree-Canadian playwright/ songwriter/pianist Tomson Highway. The songs in the show are taken from five of his musicals – Rose, The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito, The (Post) Mistress, The Sage, the Dancer, and the Fool and his latest new musical as yet to be titled.
What makes the songs unique is their Cree lyrics – and playfulness! Cree is the most spoken Native language in Canada today, and many of Canada’s most well-known place names are of Cree origin including Winnipeg, Manitoba, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Chicoutimi, Quebec and Ottawa. Cree is a very rhythmic language that lends itself very naturally to music and music-making, and the style of the music is “cabaret.” Think Cole Porter and Kurt Weill…with Cree, English, French and even Spanish lyrics! (Mr. Highway is tri-lingual in Cree, his mother tongue, and French and English.)
The songs will be sung by extraordinary Peruvian-Canadian cabaret singer, Patricia Cano, accompanied by jazz saxophonist Marcus Ali, and by Tomson Highway himself on the piano.
Writer, Composer and Musician Tomson Highway was born in a snow bank on the Manitoba/Nunavut border to a family of nomadic caribou hunters. He had the great privilege of growing up in two languages: Cree, his mother tongue, and Dene, the language of the neighbouring nation, a people with whom they travelled and hunted. His parents, with no access to books, television or radio, would tell their children stories, and Tomson fell in love with the oral tradition of storytelling. When he was six, he was taken from his family and placed in residential school. Although he resented being taken away from his parents, he did learn music, and had plans to become a concert pianist.
Tomson enjoys an international career as playwright, novelist, pianist, and songwriter. His critically acclaimed works include the plays The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, Rose, Ernestine Shuswap Gets her Trout and the best-selling novel Kiss of the Fur Queen. For many years, Tomson ran Canada’s premiere Native theatre company Native Earth Performing Arts (based in Toronto), out of which emerged an entire generation of professional Indigenous playwrights, actors and many Native theatre companies in Canada.
Tomson Highway’s many awards include the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play and Best Production (three wins, five nominations), the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama (two nominations), the Floyd S. Chalmers Canadian Play Award (two wins), winning the Toronto Arts Award (for outstanding contributions made over the years to the City of Toronto cultural industries), the Wang Harbourfront International Festival of Authors Award, the Silver Ticket Award (from the Dora Mavor Moore Awards, for outstanding contributions made over the years to the Toronto theatre industry), the National Aboriginal Achievement Award (2001), and the Order of Canada (1994).