Nfld. & Labrador·First Listen

Inuk soprano embraces all the things that make her who she is

The latest album by Deantha Edmunds embraces her Inuit heritage and her love of classical music.

Have a First Listen to My Beautiful Home by Deantha Edmunds

Deantha Edmunds is Canada's only Inuk soprano. Her latest EP is called My Beautiful Home. (courtesy Mason Photography)

When Deantha Edmunds left her hometown of Corner Brook a few decades ago, she took a little bit of her Labrador heritage with her.

"My family would watch [television program Labradorimiut], and I would get a glimpse of my father's life as a young child and youth in Labrador," Edmunds told CBC.

The theme song, Sons of Labrador/Labradoriumiut, by Sid Dicker, was one of her favourite songs to sing.

"When I went away to university in Nova Scotia, I actually put my old ghetto blaster up to the TV so I could tape the anthem so I could listen to it when I was away."

Songs of Labrador

That song is featured on Edmunds's first solo EP, My Beautiful Home. The album features classically set arrangements of some of her favourite songs of Labrador.

Edmunds's father, Albert Edmunds, was an Inuk from Hopedale, Labrador. Her mother is of Irish and Newfoundland ancestry.

The Edmunds family home in Corner Brook was filled with music of all genres, and her parents encouraged and supported her passion for classical music. 

She went on to study classical music at university and has built a busy career as a soprano, the only Inuk woman in Canada to do so.

Classical/Inuit music 

Edmunds said blending classical music from the western European tradition with her Inuit roots makes perfect sense.

She pointed out that Moravian missionaries from Germany brought classical music by Bach and other composers to the north coast of Labrador hundreds of years ago, where the Inuit embraced it. 

"The Inuit not only learned this music, but they used it in their community life and church life, all in Inuktititut," said Edmunds. 

"They not only performed the music but transformed it."

Edmunds has become increasingly involved with Indigenous music projects, including the album Pillorikput Inuit: Inuktitut Arias for All Seasons with the late Inuk singer Karrie Obed.

She said her audiences are enjoying discovering music from Labrador, and they are interested in learning more about the culture and history of the Labrador Inuit.

Edmunds's next projects include relocating from Rothesay, N.B., to St. John's, and composing a collection of songs that reflect her Inuk and Newfoundland heritages.

"I feel that different parts of me have come together, in a sense," said Edmunds. 

"I'm at a place in my life where I'm embracing all the things that make me, me."

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Heather Barrett is the host and producer of Weekend AM on CBC Radio One in Newfoundland and Labrador.

With files from Jamie Fitzpatrick