Allegra Chamber Orchestra with Melody Courage

About the Music

This program is dedicated to those who were subjected to the horrors of residential schools.



Janna Sailor, conductor

Rebecca Whitling, violin – concertmaster
Alicia Venables, violin
Erin James, violin
Ellen Farrugia, violin
Sarah Kwok, viola
Rebecca Wenham, cello
Meaghan Williams, contrabass
Carol Dymond, flute
Katie Rife, percussion

Melody Courage, soprano

i. woodpile score – improvision by Melody Courage

Inspired by woodpile score (the hanging art piece) shown in the video), part of Surrounded/Surrounding (2019) by Tania Willard

ii. White Mans Cattle by Cris Derksen

Commissioned by the Eybler Quartet and the Banff Center for Arts and Creativity, White Mans Cattle uses NFB and CBC archives to shine a light on the Canadian Settler Voice and how it relates to the Land that we live on and “own”. 

iv. Suspension by Rodney Sharman

 (2016) for improvising soloist and orchestra is a musical bed on which the soloist can rest and play freely. It was written for concerts by Tanya Tagaq and the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, Edwin Outwater, conductor who gave its first performances.  

v. As Ordinary As Stars by Jennifer Butler

Composer’s note: When I received the commission for this piece I immediately contacted Canadian poet Rae Crossman, who I met in 2001 in the woods of Ontario when we were both participating in R. Murray Schafer’s Wolf Project. He sent me a collection of poetry, and this poem stood out immediately for the simplicity and beauty of its words. It was perfect for solo voice. This piece was commissioned in 2013 by the Newfound Music Festival in Saint John’s, for soprano Caroline Schiller. ~ Jennifer Butler 

As Ordinary As Stars – Rae Crossman

as ordinary as stars
and the everyday emerald of grass
just an exaltation of larks

common as monarchs
on milkweed

no more resplendent
than an amber bead of sap
or the glaze on the fins of a trout

as unremarkable as fire in sumac
sweeping october hills

only a snowflake
familiar as sky

simply morning
as daily as bread
from the gold of wheat

as usual as forgetting
to love you

as usual as remembering

About the Artists


Melody Courage (soprano soloist) is a Vancouver-based Métis soprano of Dene, Cree and Chipewyan descent. She gained national attention as The Native Girl “…played with ethereal grace …” in the 2017 world premiere of Missing, co-produced by City Opera Vancouver and Pacific Opera Victoria. Missing (Clements/Current) gives voice, in English and Gitxsan, to the story of Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous women. Melody has performed in several digital productions during the pandemic, including Namwayut, a collaborative project led by Marion Newman with Calgary Opera’s Opera Labs, and as a soloist with Vancouver’s Allegra Chamber Orchestra, performing works by Willard, Sharman and Butler. She is much in demand by contemporary composers, with recent performances in Heart of the North (Suzanne Steele/Neil Weisensel) written in languages of the Métis-Saulteaux, Michif and French, with the Regina Symphony. This season, Melody is a guest soloist in the premiere of a new work by Ian Cusson with the Canadian Opera Company.

Melody debuted with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 2019 in the World Premiere of Ian Cusson’s aria ‘Dodo, mon tout petit’, a co- commission by the Canadian Opera Company and the National Arts Centre to replace the ‘Kuyas’ aria in the opera Louis Riel, by Harry Somers and Mavor Moore. In Toronto, Melody starred in the Dora Award winning double-bill of Two Odysseys: Pimooteewin/Gállábártnit, presented by Soundstreams Canada and Signal Theatre, directed by Michael Greyeyes and Cole Alvis, and composed by Melissa Hui/Britta Byström. These two operas, sung in Cree and Sàmi, are rooted in traditional tales from Canada and Nordic countries. More about Melody and her work

Cris Derksen (composer) is an internationally respected, Juno-nominated Indigenous cellist and composer. In a world where almost everything — people, music, cultures — get labelled and slotted into simple categories, Cris Derksen represents a challenge. Originally from Northern Alberta, she comes from a line of chiefs from NorthTall Cree Reserve on her father’s side and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s. Derksen braids the traditional and contemporary, weaving her classical background and her Indigenous ancestry together with new school electronics to create genre-defying music.

As a composer Derksen has a foot in many worlds, 2020 Compositions include: BC A History– a 4 part Docs-Series for the Knowledge network. Napi and the Rocks -A Symphonic story commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Same Wave- An 8 Part Choral Piece, commissioned by Camerata Nova Choir, The Triumph of the Euro-Christ an 8 part choral piece commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario And Indigenous Fashion Week a 4 part 45 minute Fashion Music Video. 2019 compositions include: Maada’ookii Songlines– a Mass Choral piece for 250 singers Commissioned by Luminato Festival. Rebellion – a short symphonic piece commissioned by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. Iron Peggy – a Theatre piece commissioned by the Vancouver Children’s Festival. A new performance art piece commissioned by the National Art Gallery of Canada, Ikumagiialit. 2018 works include: DORA Award for Best Sound Design for Theatre 2018; Kiinalik: these sharp tools, TIFF Premier Biidaaban (the dawn comes) Short Animation Film by Amanda StrongKa:hawai Dance Company production of BloodTidesKamloopa Theatre production, 2018 Banff Centre for the Arts String Quartet Residency White Mans Cattle And Wood Quintet International 5 bucks per head

As a performer, Derksen performs nationally and internationally, both as a soloist and with some of Canada’s finest, including; Tanya Tagaq, Buffy Sainte Marie, Naomi Klein, and Leanne Simpson to name a few. Recent destinations include Hong Kong, Australia, Mongolia, Sweden, and a whole lot of Canada – the place Derksen refers to as home.

Rodney Sharman teaches composition at the VSO School of Music. He has been Composer-in-Residence of Early Music Vancouver’s “New Music for Old Instruments”, the Victoria Symphony, National Youth Orchestra of Canada, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and Composer-Host of the Calgary Philharmonic’s New Music Festival, “Hear and Now”. In addition to concert music, Sharman writes music for cabaret, opera and dance. He sings, conducts, plays recorders and flutes. He works regularly with choreographer James Kudelka, for whom he has written scores for Oregon Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet and Citadel & Compagnie (Toronto). His chamber opera, Elsewhereless, with text and direction by Atom Egoyan, was staged in Toronto, Vancouver, and Ottawa, and performed in concert excerpts in Amsterdam, New York City, Montreal, Victoria, and Rome. Sharman was awarded First Prize in the 1984 CBC Competition for Young Composers, the 1990 Kranichsteiner Prize in Music (Darmstadt, Germany), the 2013 Dora Mavor Moore Award for outstanding sound design/composition (Toronto), and is the recipient of the 2017 Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

The Allegra Chamber Orchestra is one of the only all-female professional orchestras in the world. The ACO maintains the responsibility of the artist in society is to shine a light on issues that need to be changed and addressed, while provoking creative thought and solutions, first within ourselves, and then in the broader context of the community at large. Founded in 2016 by conductor and violinist Janna Sailor, t​he musicians of Allegra are brought together not only as professional musicians, but as women united in service and support of other women.

Each innovative concert, event and recording project presented by the ACO has a social impact focus and a practical method of financial and visible support for the partnering charitable organization. The ACO seeks to integrate music and humanity back into the community in a practical and accessible way, while maintaining the highest standards of performance and artistic excellence. The orchestra and its unique output and mandate has been featured on CBC Radio, Radio ICI, The Walrus, The Strad magazine, The Violin Channel, The Hub, public radio stations across Germany and France, among other international media. The orchestra regularly commissions and premiers works by Canadian, female and minority composers, and has co-founded and continues to support a music therapy program for women living on the streets of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side.

Allegra’s ongoing support and founding of music therapy programs in women’s resource centres across BC is made possible through a charitable partnership with Music Heals. A portion of proceeds from ACO-produced events go directly to fund music therapy, and concerts are made accessible to the women who benefit from these programs.


Janna Sailor (conductor) is a conductor, violinist, and musical innovator of extraordinary scope and versatility.  Originally from rural Saskatchewan, she began her musical studies at the age of three and began performing with professional orchestras at the age of thirteen. In June 2016, Janna founded the Vancouver-based Allegra Chamber Orchestra, one of the only all-female classical orchestras in the world; an ensemble dedicated to creating opportunities for women and minorities in the music industry, with a mandate of social action through music. The orchestra has been featured on CBC Radio, German Public Radio, Radio ICI, the Strad magazine, The Violin Channel, The Walrus, The Hub magazine, as well as other publications and media outlets across North America and Europe. Janna has conducted major orchestras and ensembles including the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, the Vancouver Bach Choir, and the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, among others. Janna has held conducting positions with the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Academy Orchestra of Canada, and the Vancouver Youth Symphony Orchestra. In addition to conducting, Janna enjoys a diverse career as violinist, delving into contemporary, world and early music, jazz, and classical crossover, in addition to chamber and solo engagements. Ensembles she has performed with include the Vancouver Opera Orchestra, Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra, Pacific Baroque Orchestra and Tafelmusik.  Janna has served as concertmaster with both the Montreal based l’Orchestre de la Francophonie (2011) and the National Academy Orchestra of Canada (2014).

Video Production Credits

Videography – Alistair Eagle, assisted by Don Xaliman & Camillia Frey

Audio Engineer & Mix – Sheldon Zaharko

Filmed and recorded on June 10, 2021 in the Historic Theatre at The Cultch, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

For the Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra:

Artistic Director & Producer – Mark Armanini

Composer-in-Residence & Senior Project Manager – Farshid Samandari

Production Manager & Communications – Melanie Thompson

Marketing & Production Assistant – Gina Hernandez Sanchez

Operations Manager – Devni De Silva


View the whole Global Soundscapes Festival: Digital Edition 2021 programme.

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Overview of the full Festival programme