Watch the Victoria Symphony's making-of video about the Bones of Crows score

Go behind the scenes to see how Indigenous singers and orchestral musicians united to create 'medicine for healing' for the much-anticipated miniseries.

Go behind the scenes to see how Indigenous singers and an orchestra united to create 'medicine for healing'

For orchestral musicians, a typical workday comprises practising, rehearsals and often a concert. But now and then, they get called upon for something a little different: recording film scores.

That was the case recently for the Victoria Symphony, whose playing is featured in the original score for Bones of Crows, a five-part miniseries premiering on CBC Gem on Sept. 20.

Directed, written and produced by Métis/Dene filmmaker Marie Clements, Bones of Crows is a multi-generational story of resilience and strength, told through the eyes of Cree matriarch Aline Spears. The miniseries traces the impact of Canada's residential schools through fictionalized characters and actual historical events. (There's also a concurrent feature film of the same name, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022.)

"I felt honoured that we had the opportunity to play this very small role in the telling of this important story," says the Victoria Symphony's CEO, Matthew White, during the opening minutes of Symphony of Crows, a short film detailing the orchestra's involvement in the Bones of Crows score.

The nine-minute video, streaming above, focuses on their recording sessions for "You Are My Bones," a composition for voices and orchestra by Wayne Lavallee and Jesse Zubot, with lyrics by Clements.

'Medicine for healing'

"We wanted to fuse those two worlds: contemporary Indigenous voices and orchestration together," Lavallee explains. He worked closely with the singers, including lead vocalist Siibii, whose grandmother, a music-lover, went through residential schools, and singer-songwriter Pura Fé, who works with a team of healers for grief and trauma recovery for residential school survivors. "Being a part of this is very special," Fé notes in the video.

At the recording sessions, Zubot was tasked with helping the musicians of the orchestra bridge the gap between styles, and to feel the music notated in the score. "Music is meant to be a medicine for healing," he reflects.

The video also includes commentary from Sean O'Loughlin, principal pops conductor of the Victoria Symphony, and violinist Christi Meyers and trombonist Brad Howland.

Bones of Crows stars Grace Dove, Phillip Forest Lewitski, Rémi Girard, Karine Vanasse and Alyssa Wapanatâhk, and premieres on Sept. 20 on CBC Gem.

A scene from the miniseries Bones of Crows depicts the Spears family making music.
A scene from the miniseries Bones of Crows depicts the Spears family making music. (Derek Rodgers)