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Celebrating Diversity with Music: Canadian Cultural Heritage

General Assembly 2002 Event 3073

Sponsors: General Assembly Planning Committee and the U.S. Chapter of International Association for Religious Freedom

A standing room only crowd was delighted to discover the diversity of the music, culture, and peoples of Canada at this presentation by a trio from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Band. Soprano Kerry-Anne Kutz, who is also the music director and lay chaplain of the Lakeshore Unitarian Universalist (UU) Congregation in Beaconsfield, Québec, was joined by trumpeter husband Michael Cartile and pianist Pierre François.

Kutz began with "Just One Voice," by Ann Mortifee from British Columbia. The song speaks of how we are just one voice, yet that voice joined together with others can change the course of history's turning, and we can then witness the "dawning of the daring sunrise."

Kutz then taught the attendees the proper spelling of her surname, K-U-T-Zed, before telling about the incredible diversity of the Canadian people. They have come here from different places, many from cultures far beyond North America. And yet the thing that unites them is a love for the land, and a connection to the physical place of Canada that runs deep through the spirit.

In her travels to the North, Kutz spoke of the dozens of people she met who came to the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut for just a couple of weeks, and stayed for their lifetimes. This land is a wonder in June, with the land of the midnight sun, where children play outdoors until 2:00 a.m., and where, in January, you must leave your car running. She then sang "Out of the Silence" by Scribbler's Ink: "Every heart's a dream, every soul's a song, searching for the rainbow's end for a place we belong. Out of the silence, like a whisper on the wind."

Within the cultures of the territories, it is important to look into the eyes of one another, and in fact, Kutz stated, to do otherwise, or to look away is to insult them, particularly if they are children. These people live in a land where beluga whales can be seen swimming in the waters, and there is a genteel diversity of flora, fauna, and peoples. The Northwest Territories is, as it says in the song "Here's to the People," a place where shared effort of minds, lives, and hearts lead to the dream lasting forever, the dream of a people working together.

Many people, Kutz said, don't see the beauty of the prairies and say that there is nothing there to see. Yet the prairies contain open plains, foothills, Rocky Mountains, pasture lands, farms, and a people who see much in the prairie winds. The song "Prairie Boy," with words by author W.O. Mitchell and music by Morris Surdin, captures the hauntingly beautiful spirit of the prairie lands.

We journeyed next to the big city, with the familiar song by Saskatchewan native Joni Mitchell, as Kutz invited the attendees to join in on the chorus of "The Big Yellow Taxi": "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone; they paved Paradise, and put up a parking lot."

Saskatchewan was the birthplace of socialism in Canada, with former Baptist preacher Tommy Douglas authoring the Canadian universal health care system. There is a deep sense of cooperation in the province, and the people resemble the beautiful open landscape, being open in much the same way. When Kutz moved to her home in Ottawa, it was her goal to get the people walking by on the street to say hello to her. Every day she walked the same path, and saw the same people. She decided that if she ever met someone who passed and said "Hello" back, she'd give them $10. She still has her $10 bill. With that, Kutz shared her own composition, "Each Time," with the people. "So look at me my friend," she sang, "Each time that we pass by. Warm me with your precious smile, and hold me with your eyes."

Continuing east, Kutz involved the attendees in singing "Nam Yoho Renge Kyo," with music written by Paul Hoffert and Skip Prokop, members of the Canadian band Lighthouse. "Peace on earth could live forever, If we only try. Sharing love with one another, Understanding and singing together." Castile, on flugelhorn, and François, on piano, next presented a wonderful jazz version of Gordon Lightfoot's classic song, "Early Morning Rain."

Kutz developed three goals when she was a teenager: to become a good musician, become bilingual, and marry a French man. Having accomplished all three, she then shared with the mostly English-speaking audience two numbers by Québec artist Gilles Vigneault. The first, "Le Doux Chagrin," speaks of broken hearts, and about how difficult it is to love. The second, "Mon Pays," spoke of Vigneault's love for Québec: "My country is not a country, it is winter. My garden is not a garden, it is the snow. My road is not a road, it is a plain. My country is not a country, it is winter."

Canada's commitment to peace, and to the humanity of everyone, was shared through the "Hymn to Freedom," with words by Harriette Hamilton, and music by Oscar Peterson. It speaks about it will not be until "Every hand joins every hand, and together molds our destiny, that's when we'll be free. Any hour, any day, the time soon will come, when we will live in dignity, that's when we'll be free."

A touch of sadness entered the room as Kutz told of the murder of fourteen young women on December 6, eleven years ago. A man killed them in Montreal, simply because they were women. Since that time, their deaths have been memorialized, every year. "I will care for you," she had us sing, "I'll be there for you, I will share this space and make it safe. I will care for you." Kutz's song continued speaking of taking care of all living things, and those who may lose their way, so that we must strengthen ties in our families, sharing laughter, thoughts and tears, and by reaching out to the community to dispel hatred and fears.

Because Kutz's work with the RCMP Band has her traveling away from home, she wrote the "Lullaby Waltz" for her children, that let them know how much she loves and misses them when she's on the road. Yet her travels take her to special places, where the healing gift of music is so badly needed. Several years ago, she arrived in Nova Scotia just five hours after the Stellarton mine had blown up, trapping twenty-six miners below, with no one knowing whether they were dead or alive. During that trip, she often sang "Working Man," by Nova Scotian Rita MacNeil.

Responding to the diversity that exists in Canada, Kutz then performed the Italian aria "Time to Say Goodbye." And although she attempted to end the concert at this time, she was brought back for an encore. But it was a shared encore—and an educational one—as she invited all gathered to share in the song "Allouetta," naming more body parts than we can remember.

This event was sponsored by the U.S. Chapter of the International Association for Religious Freedom, and we were welcomed by both Rev. Doris Hunter, co-chair, and by Rev. Olivia Holmes, Director of the Unitarian Universalist Association's International Office. Hunter invited people into membership of the U.S. and Canadian Chapters of the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF), the oldest religious interfaith group, founded by the Unitarians in 1900. Hunter also invited people to attend the IARF's triennial conference in Budapest July 28 to August 2, 2002.

Reported by Lisa Presley.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, September 8, 2011.

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