Unique concert promises education through music

The Sultans of String and their Indigenous collaborators are in town on Oct. 12

Music is a great way to learn, says Sultans of String violinist Chris McKhool.

Walking Through the Fire, a musical and multimedia show that is coming to Timmins on Oct. 12, is a way to explore issues within Indigenous communities and learn about different experiences, said McKhool.

“Everything goes through several layers of checking with the artists and a lot of back and forth to make sure they have full control of how their culture is being represented,” he said. “And we pass that on to the audience.”

Marc Merilainen, an Ojibwe and Finnish artist with over 30 years of experience making music, collaborated on the Walking Through the Fire album and the tour.

He says the show is meant to get people thinking about Indigenous issues.

“I hope it inspires them to learn more about the various issues and struggles facing indigenous people today,” said Merilainen. ”And if that inspires them to purchase a book by an indigenous author to learn more about a topic, then we’ve achieved our goal.”

McKhool said that the collaboration with Indigenous artists was a learning experience for him.

“There’s only so much you can learn from books and films, but also it’s really important that we’ve been leaning on our Indigenous artists to keep sharing through music and story, and learning about their lives that way,” he said. “The show is such a fantastic platform for them to be able to share in their voice with our audience and a general audience.”

The show deals with intergenerational trauma, colonization, and residential schools.

It grew out of the Sultans of String’s previous work, highlighting the stories and issues of refugees and immigrants.

Duke Redbird asked McKhool to step up.

“After we did that project, Duke said to me, when are you going to do for Indigenous awareness what you did for issues for immigrants and refugees?’” said McKhool. “It was a very direct call to action, and I really love and respect Duke, so I said that is absolutely the next album we should do.”

He said it was a conscious effort to make sure communities and artists from across the country were involved.

“We go right across and everywhere in between,” he said. “It’s just such a rich tapestry of incredible voices and artistry and incredible collaborations.”

The tour started in September. It includes a stop in Timmins for the first time.

McKhool said the stop here came about very naturally.

“Timmins was not actually part of the block booking process, but we reached out to them and said, ‘We’re coming through, and we’ve got a night off, and you’re right smack in the middle! And they went for it,’” he said.

Merilainen said the tour has been a great experience so far.

“Every night has been magical! The audiences have all been wonderful and very receptive to the music,” he said. “I am also having a great time performing alongside all of these great indigenous artists as well as the ultra-talented members of Sultans of String.”

McKhool and Merilainen said audiences should expect a lot of energy and excitement.

I want them to feel like they are part of the show as well & we’ll do our best to get them involved,” said Merilainen.

McKhool has one important suggestion for those coming to the show.

“Wear your dancing shoes if you want to dance on the last number!”

The Timmins Museum: NEC is hosts the show at the O’Gorman High School auditorium.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors. They’re available through the museum at 705-360-2617 or by emailing [email protected]

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