School of Organists

Lay Summary 

For two hundred years Inuit organists have been providing musical direction in the Moravian churches along the north coast of Labrador. Stewards of a unique musical tradition, these men (and a few women) provided cultural and community leadership and safeguarded a musical, spiritual, and linguistic practice that has come to represent Inuit Labrador. In recent years many of these tradition-bearers have died and the transmission of this tradition has been broken. Rev. Beatrice Hope, the only ordained Inuk Moravian minister, approached Memorial’s School of Music with a request for assistance in training a new generation of organists and music leaders in four Labrador communities. This project seeks to establish the basis for a collaboration which would respond to this request and establish a School for Organists involving tradition-bearers (there are two Inuit organists left on the coast); music leaders in Happy Valley, Makkovik, Hopedale and Nain; and faculty and students at Memorial’s School of Music. Collaborative
consultation within these parties resulted in a proposal to provide music literacy training, keyboard skills, traditional knowledge, and music leadership skills to up to twelve individuals who are prepared to assume music leadership roles in their communities.

Following the practice of previous successful community partnerships (Tittulautet Nunatsiavuttini / Nunatsiavut Brass Bands workshops; PiusituKaujuit Asianguavalliajuillu / Tradition & Transition), we began by bringing together community and university collaborators for two days of discussions in September 2019 to refine the need, identify resources, establish a leadership team and develop a plan, schedule and budget. Funds from the OPE’s Quickstart Fund made these meetings possible. The resultant project, entitled “Community Music Literacy in Coastal Labrador” seeks to encourage community-based music literacy rooted in traditional music practice and time-honoured ways of transmitting those traditions. These culturally relevant ways of learning will be supplemented by expertise, resources and technological support for peer-group, digital learning from Memorial’s Faculty of Education and School of Music.

The objective of this project will be the revitalization and sustainability of music literacy in four Labrador Inuit communities in ways that respect and integrate traditional means of mentorship. The project aims not only to safeguard historical traditions, but also to establish a foundation for the development of new or other musical traditions. Building the project on a base of community-led group learning, it will also support leadership development as a byproduct of creative practice. To meet these broad goals, the project has several specific objectives; each developed in response to community-expressed needs.

1. To engage 15 to 20 participants (5 to 7 prospective musicians in each community) in music literacy programs which will include an intensive four-day workshop on music literacy, musicianship, and basic keyboard skills; followed by a twelve-week peer-tutoring course run at a community level with on-line supplementary resources, including real-time tutoring from musicians at Memorial; and a culminating, week-long festival celebration of Labrador Inuit music traditions combined with workshops on music literacy, musicianship, keyboard skills, and choral singing.

2. To assist 8 to 10 participating musicians in developing the skills to assume music leadership roles within their communities by training them in project coordination, peer-mentoring, and community music, as well as developing the musicianship skills necessary for leadership, i.e., conducting, music writing and transcription, music technology skills.

3. To assist in organizing a music festival/workshop on the North coast of Labrador to provide performance and learning opportunities that celebrate traditional music-making and foster new forms of musical expression.

4. To increase the number of active organists, choir and band members in each of four Labrador Inuit communities.

5. To collaborate in developing a community music curriculum that honours and integrates traditional Inuit ways of learning music with contemporary pedagogies and teaching technologies.

Newfoundland and Labrador
Start date 
2 Jul 2019
End date 
1 Oct 2019