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Tla'amin singers/drummers, PRISMA students collaborate with VSO

Indigenous artists, musicians create special night

Theatre-goers were treated to a special night at the Orpheum in Vancouver on Thursday, June 13. 

Tla'amin singers and drummers were invited to perform three pieces created by Tla'amin member Drew Blaney, with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) accompanying them. Pacific Region International Summer Music Association (PRISMA) co-founder Arthur Arnold conducted the arrangements by Tobin Stokes and Yoanita Kartadihardja, with 14 PRISMA Academy students also performing.

This is the first year Tla'amin and PRISMA were invited to take part in The Path Forward, which is an annual concert curated by the VSO Indigenous Council that features Indigenous artists and musicians from the Coast Salish Territory of the Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

The night was in honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day and part of VSO's work toward reconciliation.
According to PRISMA, several months ago, when the organization was planning its PRISMA Academy extension in Vancouver in collaboration with the VSO and VSO School of Music, the idea was floated to do something there, with Tla'amin involved.  

"You could hear the enthusiasm of everyone at the end of the pieces; it was pretty overwhelming," said Arnold.

PRISMA and Tla'amin have been partnering for the past eight years for PRISMA on the Beach, a free outdoor concert at Willingdon Beach, which takes place this year on June 22.

"To do that [perform] in the Orpheum with the VSO for such a dedicated crowd was just marvelous," said Arnold. “It was so beautiful to do this, it was a very special moment, also for the VSO."

During the performance, which can be watched on the Path Forward/VSO YouTube channel, the audience watched and heard Blaney and fellow Tla'amin member Dillon Johnson, with the Tla'amin singers and drummers as the centre of attention, on stage with the VSO orchestra.

"This was really integrated," said Arnold. "There was nothing that didn't flow at that moment. Through music, cultures can connect."

Dennis Thomas-Whonoak from the Tsleil Waututh Nation can be seen and heard, along with the VSO, opening the night with the Coast Salish Anthem on the same YouTube channel. Following the anthem, Blaney, Johnson and the singers and drummers can be heard at the one-hour, 15-second mark.

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