Week Four

Week four of the Songs and Stories of Migration and Encounter brought around the start of constructing the musical creations the youth have envisioned. Ons brought in a mobile music studio that allowed the youth to record their voices and instrumentals on a multitrack software, getting the feel of how they wanted their performances to sound.

In Menelik Hall we set up various instruments and a vocal microphone. The youth started by using the mobile recording studio to create a hip-hop beat using a small mini keyboard. Next, one of our participants recorded some piano progressions, and the first bits of vocals were recorded. These vocals were mostly rap lyrics created by two other youth participants. Reverend Phyllis generously offered to return this week and help the youth to create lyrics that conveyed meaning to them. By the end of the session we had accomplished a rough version of the song that everyone was extremely happy with.

At Étoile de l’Acadie the youth are starting to get very excited with the idea of performing on stage! Adding to that excitement Todd Hiscock and the Boardmore Theatre have graciously offered the use of costumes and props to the students for the October 22 performance, ‘All My Relations.’  The participants have the scene set for their final performance. The performance will include two songs performed by a pipe and drum duo and 2 participants acting in the background. For their second act they will perform the song they created and Centre Director Lisa Berthier has offered to record her voice for a piece of the song.

The Membertou workshop began with a special indigenous ceremony with Shirley Christmas. The youth and facilitators all appreciated being able to take part in such a honourable ceremony.  Following the ceremony we had a jam session with the hand drum, piano, ukulele, small percussions and vocals. This energetic jam session helped us to work out a melody and chords for a chorus. Once that was down we recorded each individual instrument and voice. By the end of the workshop there were more lyrics written down for the choruses we had left.

The workshops this week were extremely productive!  The youth are getting more and more excited to perform on October 22  and are getting closer and closer to completing their creative pieces. It’s an amazing experience to be able witness the passion and ideas each individual brings to these workshops. Both the participants and facilitators cannot wait to see what the remaining workshops and final showcase will bring.

Week Three

It was during the third week of the Songs and Stories of Migration and Encounter workshops that the participants fully dove into the creative process. With reflections on the words and ideas shared during the first two weeks the youth were inspired to begin brainstorming and creating their piece for the final performance on October 22.

In Menelik Hall, the facilitator Ons Barnat set up the musical instruments to let the youth practice and play with. They chose some popular songs to jam to, getting them into the rhythm and mindset of creative ideas. We welcomed back Reverend Phyllis who shared more stories of her life and experiences in Whitney Pier. She brought with her a Speech Stick – which brought everyone together to share wonderful thoughts about the people in their lives that they love and have influenced them.


In Cheticamp we had the amazing opportunity to sit down and have an interview with Myron Sims, a community elder from Cheticamp. Myron talked about his experience as a Chogyam Trunpa disciple in the 1970’s. Myron also showed us his piano playing skills, which developed from a long time love of Jazz and RNB music.

This week at Étoile de l’Acadie we had the opportunity to work in their beautiful music room. The youth had decided they wanted to create a song as their final showpiece. With that they started the initial steps to writing a song: creating a beat. This beat was created by one of our youth step dancers.  With that beat we recorded the first round of lyrics, focusing of the proudness of being a francophone from Cape Breton Island.

In Membertou we welcomed to new indigenous elders:  Jane and Clifford. They both had amazing and animated stories to share. Both Jane and Clifford were so excited to have the opportunity to chat and share with the youth, encouraging them to create some lyrics. By the end of our session the youth had written down some possible lyrics that were directly inspired by the elders.

This week really demonstrated the inspiration that comes from talking and learning from our elders.  It led the youth to develop their own stories and share feelings that can be expressed in their creative showcase. Everyone is looking forward to seeing what the following workshops will bring, and will continue building on what they’ve accomplished so far.



Week Two

For the second week of the Songs and Stories of Migration and Encounter workshops we were excited to have Dr. Heather Fitzsimmons-Frey visiting from Toronto. Dr. Fitzsimmons- Frey is a Banting Post- Doctoral Fellow at York University. Heathers research is focused towards performance histories, dance, gender and youth. Her expertise helped us connect the youth through choreograph exercises and facilitate the elder talks throughout the week. Dr. Fitzsimmons-Frey joined us for each workshop.

In Menelik Hall the youth welcomed two university students from CBU’s Applied Theatre program, who will be joining them for the remainder of the workshops. The workshop content consisted of some theatre and movement exercises and some fantastic conversation with four elders from the community.

The Workshop in Cheticamp was set up on the main stage of the Theatre of the Conseil des Arts de Chéticamp to focus on choreographic experimentations. Co-facilitator Thomas Colford had the youth mixing acadian step dancing with body percussions. Instead of an elder talk this week, we had the honour of listening to the legendary Acadian musical and theatre author Paul Gallant perform. By the end of the workshop Paul very generously offered to help out in our next workshops playing the guitar.

On Thursday at Étoile de l’Acadie French participants were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to listen to the Centre’s director Lisa Berthier. Lisa spoke about her own migration experiences in Canada.

In Membertou participants and facilitators gathered in the Elders room along with three CBU students from the applied theatre program and indigenous elder, Jeff Ward – who is the General Manager of the Heritage Park. During the initial talking circle the elders told stories and shared their knowledge with us. Following the chat, Heather and Thomas led some activities to help everyone to get to know each other better. Ending the workshop, we did our first music jam session where we sang songs, danced and had an all-around good time.

This second week of workshops was full of amazing stories and ideas. We heard many local stories about migrating to Canada and shared in the wisdom of our elders that will help build the structure of our performance pieces. The youth also got their first taste of the creative process that they will pursue in the coming weeks of workshops.

Week One

September 12, 2017 marked the first of ‘Songs and Stories of Migration and Encounter’ six weeks of weekly workshops for youth ages 12-18. Each week we will meet in four community locations: at Menelik Hall in Whitney Pier on Tuesdays from 4-6PM, Place des arts Pere-Anselme-Chiasson in Cheticamp on Wednesdays from 3-5PM, and on Thursdays at Centre Communautaire Etoile de l’Acadie in Sydney from 3-5PM, and Membertou Heritage Park in Membertou from 6:30-8:30PM.


The main focus of our first weekly gathering was to introduce youth participants to one another and to our workshop facilitators, Ons Barnat, a post-doctoral research fellow from Montreal and Thomas Colford, professional dancer and choreographer originally from South Bar. In Membertou, co-facilitators include Shaylene Paul and Shirley Christmas. We warmed up with some ice-breaking activities and discussed our plan for next six weeks of workshops.


At Menelik Hall, youth from Whitney Pier and Glace Bay were all curious and responsive to the exciting technology we shared,  like the 360 degree camera, which helped us create a short virtual reality film right on the spot that night! In Chéticamp, we met with youth who love to step dance, make music and act. At Étoile de l’Acadie, we went outdoors to some activities  including where the youth used the 360 degrees camera, and captured their peers performing in the playground.

Co-facilitators Shaylene Paul and Shirley Christmas worked with us and a large, vibrant group of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth at Membertou Heritage Park. Elder Shirley is very passionate about engaging the youth and shared her knowledge. She spoke about how her ancestors have given songs and poems to her through her dreams. After some truly moving storytelling, we made our way outdoors for more fun and activities with the 360 degree camera!


It has been wonderful to begin our workshops together this week – to learn about the passions, skills and personalities of youth and elders around the island. We are looking forward to the second week of workshops. In this second week, dancer Thomas Colford and theatre scholar Dr. Heather Fitzsimmons-Frey (visiting from Toronto!) will lead story sharing sessions with community elders as we begin to create our new performance pieces.



Explore the updated Songs of Truth web pages!

Over the last two weeks, we have made a number of changes to the Songs of Truth website: you can now visit the ‘Songs’ pages to read Julian Kytasty’s lively program notes for the Songs of Truth CD, read up on the history of the bandura and the kobzar tradition under ‘The Bandura’, meet our project contributors under ‘About’, and learn more about Julian’s many musical and theatrical projects and collaborations under ‘Julian Kytasty’. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, look up the instructional materials under ‘Resources’ and learn to play the bandura yourself! Read More

Julian Kytasty & Scott Sharplin ~ Performance Video

Julian Kytasty Scott Sharplin Performance Video

Julian Kytasty and Scott Sharplin’s collaboration is a mixture of theatre arts and musical virtuosity. Kytasty’s ability to mix storytelling, masterful bandura instrumentals and Sharplin’s clever spoken word are featured in this performance from Griots and Kobzars at the Boardmore Playhouse. Read More

Ukrainian Song Lyrics and Translations Now Available, More to Come!

Take a look at our new Songs pages! We’ve added transcriptions of the lyrics – in Ukrainian – with poetic translations created by Julian Kytasty. We’ll continue adding more content to the website in the coming weeks and months, including detailed notes about the histories and significances of each song, as well as the bandura and kobzar traditions and practices. Stay tuned!