Event Title

There's No Place like Home: Community Choir Shallaway and the Production of Cultural Identity

Presenter Information

Kiera Galway, University of Toronto

Start Date

30-5-2011 2:00 PM

End Date

30-5-2011 2:30 PM

Description

This paper considers the role of music in producing a cultural identity specific to Newfoundland (while recognizing that no culture is unitary). I focus on the community youth choir Shallaway and the ways their explicit commitment to fostering a collective cultural identity are implemented musically and socially. After the collapse of the cod industry, Susan Knight sought a way to help re-invent Newfoundland culture and society. Her solution was to form a community youth choir committed to preserving and disseminating Newfoundland culture and to facilitating the development of future leaders in the province. As she says, “The ethos and philosophy of the choir is about developing our young people to be strong, independent, confident and committed to this place with a very strong sense of cultural identity.” In this paper, I examine some of the musical and non-musical ways Newfoundland community youth choir Shallaway develops individual and communal cultural identity among its members. Content analysis of the choir’s website, mandate and promotional materials offer background for considering how the choir’s choice of repertoire (both traditional folk material and commissioned works) reflect and produce historical and social narratives, and interviews with choir members offer insight into how the choir’s young singers internalize these narratives. Part of music’s power (in terms of identity) is its ability to define a space without (geographical) boundaries. I argue that what makes music special for Newfoundlanders is its ability to define a place without boundaries –that is, ‘Newfoundland’ music denotes and invokes that culture wherever and whenever it is performed, remembered or otherwise present. As a Newfoundlander recently defected to the “mainland”, I think often of the responsibility our province’s young people bear in building the province’s economy and culture. I’m not alone - klatches of faithful Newfoundlanders tend to form in almost every province, a collectivity I playfully term ‘the Newfoundland diaspora’. The tension between staying at home, helping to revision the future of our place, and moving away to seek one’s individual fortune often plays out in the folk and popular music of our region. Through focus group sessions with former Shallaway members now living away from home, I investigate how the “home and away” dichotomy operates among choir members who have chosen to leave the province. I also look at music’s role in fetishizing the distant ‘home’, and its power to invoke and create collective memory in the ‘diasporic’ community.

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May 30th, 2:00 PM May 30th, 2:30 PM

There's No Place like Home: Community Choir Shallaway and the Production of Cultural Identity

This paper considers the role of music in producing a cultural identity specific to Newfoundland (while recognizing that no culture is unitary). I focus on the community youth choir Shallaway and the ways their explicit commitment to fostering a collective cultural identity are implemented musically and socially. After the collapse of the cod industry, Susan Knight sought a way to help re-invent Newfoundland culture and society. Her solution was to form a community youth choir committed to preserving and disseminating Newfoundland culture and to facilitating the development of future leaders in the province. As she says, “The ethos and philosophy of the choir is about developing our young people to be strong, independent, confident and committed to this place with a very strong sense of cultural identity.” In this paper, I examine some of the musical and non-musical ways Newfoundland community youth choir Shallaway develops individual and communal cultural identity among its members. Content analysis of the choir’s website, mandate and promotional materials offer background for considering how the choir’s choice of repertoire (both traditional folk material and commissioned works) reflect and produce historical and social narratives, and interviews with choir members offer insight into how the choir’s young singers internalize these narratives. Part of music’s power (in terms of identity) is its ability to define a space without (geographical) boundaries. I argue that what makes music special for Newfoundlanders is its ability to define a place without boundaries –that is, ‘Newfoundland’ music denotes and invokes that culture wherever and whenever it is performed, remembered or otherwise present. As a Newfoundlander recently defected to the “mainland”, I think often of the responsibility our province’s young people bear in building the province’s economy and culture. I’m not alone - klatches of faithful Newfoundlanders tend to form in almost every province, a collectivity I playfully term ‘the Newfoundland diaspora’. The tension between staying at home, helping to revision the future of our place, and moving away to seek one’s individual fortune often plays out in the folk and popular music of our region. Through focus group sessions with former Shallaway members now living away from home, I investigate how the “home and away” dichotomy operates among choir members who have chosen to leave the province. I also look at music’s role in fetishizing the distant ‘home’, and its power to invoke and create collective memory in the ‘diasporic’ community.