She plays classical trumpet. He plays the Indigenous flute, rattle and drum.
Together, trumpet-player Samantha Whelan Kotkas and Cree singer-songwriter-musician Walter MacDonald White Bear show that vastly different musical traditions can come together to create a fascinating listening experience in the latest presentation from the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra.
Music from the Land is a family-friendly, cross-cultural video concert that can be watched for free on RDSO’s website, www.rdso.ca.
The two Calgary-based musicians will take listeners on a virtual exploration of how music is inspired by the natural world in both classical and Indigenous musical traditions.
It’s a way of bridging musical forms and cultures and a way of attempting Truth and Reconciliation, said White Bear.
“We might have a different dialect, but we speak the same musical language,” added Kotkas, who has a Master’s degree in trumpet performance from the University of Houston.
White Bear has a philosophy degree and nearly 30 years of gathered experience through performing at various drum circles and Indigenous ceremonies, and learning music traditions from Elders of different First Nations.
“We’re hoping to send a positive message with what we do to kids,” explained White Bear, who has been touring with Kotkas to schools and concert halls as part of a National Arts Centre program for the past six years.
Their RDSO performance, produced by local videographer, Harley Hay Studios, shows that two vastly different musical styles can go together like cheese and crackers.
“We’re quite a combo,” said White Bear, who enjoys the creative energy that’s sparked by his collaborations with the trumpeter.
Music from the Land features various solos and duets. The two musicians perform largely original compositions or improvisations — although a Vivaldi piccolo concerto is also on the program (with piano arrangement by RDSO’s multi-talented music director Claude Lapalme.)
Kotkas, who has performed regularly with the RDSO for 23 years, believes audiences like it well enough when she and White Bear play solos — but really recognize something special when they play together. “That’s when the kids stand and cheer and give us standing ovations.”
The Share the Land concert can be heard all year on the RDSO’s website.