FILE - In this Sept. 10, 2019, file photo, Canadian author Margaret Atwood holds a copy of her book "The Testaments," during a news conference in London. Atwood, whose sweeping body of work includes "The Handmaid's Tale," depicting a nightmarish future for the United States, is this year's winner of a lifetime achievement award celebrating literature's power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding, officials of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize officials announced Monday, Sept. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

Margaret Atwood joins music project to raise awareness for gender-based violence

OTTAWA — A brother of one of three women slain by their ex-partner in the Ottawa Valley has recruited Margaret Atwood for a music project about gender-based domestic violence.

An awareness campaign by baritone Joshua Hopkins, whose sister Nathalie Warmerdam was murdered in 2015, caught the attention of Atwood and Florida-raised composer Jake Heggie.

They agreed to join him in an effort to “inspire other voices” to the cause with an eight-track album of Atwood’s poetry sung by Hopkins and with Heggie on piano.

“Songs for Murdered Sisters” was co-commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. The album will be released on March 5, shortly before International Women’s Day.

All of the songs were written both as a chamber piece, envisioned for vocals and piano, as well as a fully orchestrated piece, according to the announcement.

A separate filmed performance will be available to stream for free on Feb. 19 through the Marquee TV platform.

“Songs for Murdered Sisters” was inspired by the murders perpetrated by Basil Borutski, who was convicted in 2017 of first-degree murder in the deaths of Hopkins’ sister, 48-year-old Warmerdam, and 36-year-old Anastasia Kuzyk.

Borutski also was convicted of second-degree murder in the slaying of 66-year-old Carol Culleton. All three murders happened within an hour of each other on Sept. 22, 2015.

Borutski had relationships with all three women and sought revenge for their supposed grievances against him, the court was told in his trial.

He is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 70 years.

“I have known two women who were murdered, both by jealous former romantic partners, so the killing of Joshua’s sister resonated with me,” Atwood said in a statement.

“I made the ‘sisters’ (in the title) plural because they are indeed – unhappily – very plural. Sisters, daughters, mothers. So many.”

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