English, French and Inuktitut: Labrador choir joins Shallaway for special Canada 150 performance

Youth choirs from St. John's and Labrador are heading to the nation's capital to sing a tune in Inuktikut for Canada's 150 birthday celebrations.

N.L. choirs travelling to Ottawa to perform on July 1

Choirs from St. John's and Labrador will be performing together in Ottawa at the Unisong Choral Festival on Canada Day. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Youth choirs from St. John's and Labrador are heading to the nation's capital to sing a tune in Inuktikut for Canada's 150 birthday celebrations.

The Ullugiagatsuk Choir from northern Labrador will be joined by the Shallaway Youth Choir to perform Music of the Land, a piece that was commissioned by Newfoundland composer Kathleen Allan, at the Unisong Choral Festival on July 1 in Ottawa.

​It's a unique opportunity for both choirs — and one they aren't taking lightly. On Tuesday, they were busy rehearsing for the big day in St. John's.

Claire Donnan, from St. John's, says she's enjoyed getting to know members of the Labrador choir. (Ted Dillon/CBC)

Nain's Megan Dicker, 18, said it's been a unique opportunity to perform in Inuktikut with a choir that's not accustomed to the language.

"I think patience is the key. As long as you're patient you can do anything," she said. "We are just trying to share our voices with everybody else so we can be united."

Her choir is comprised of youth from six different Labrador communities who get together twice a year to practice and perform. 

"We are all very well connected, so when we get together, it's smooth."

Sharing cultures

For Shallaway's Claire Donnan, 13, singing with the Ullugiagatsuk Choir has been a great way to become familiar with a new language and meet new people. 

"It's very interesting to learn Inuktitut because in Newfoundland we don't get many opportunities to learn it," she said. "It's just as important to our culture as English is."

Young people from Labrador's coastal communities are working with the Shallaway Youth Choir in St. John's to teach them their language. They'll come together in Ottawa on Thursday to sing for Canada Day. 1:20

Kellie Walsh, Shallaway's artistic director, said she pushed hard to have Music of the Land included in the list of performances for Canada 150.

"I called up the artistic director of the Unisong festival and I said, 'On Canada Day, I don't think it's okay to just have French and English, I think we should have one of our Indigenous languages as well.'"

And it won't just be the Ullugiagatsuk and Shallaway choirs performing the song on July 1.

They'll be joined by hundreds of other youth vocalists from across the country who have also been learning to sing in Inuktikut.

The performance will take place at the Shaw Centre in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day.

With files from Ryan Cooke