A song is a gift that keeps on giving.
Back in 2010, Chilliwack’s Steven Point wrote a drumming song for the dedication of the Salish Sea, and gave it to the people of the province. It was his last public act as Lieutenant Governor, and he named the song British Columbia.
His hope was that someday, schools across the province would pick up the song and teach youth to perform it.
This week, Point joined the Chilliwack Secondary School Choir and their concert band, along with traditional drummers and singers for a performance in front of the whole school.
It was a special opening of the high school’s year end ceremony on Tuesday morning, and to pull it off took the collaboration of dozens of students, including the Fine Arts and Aboriginal departments to create the song presentation, featuring music and visual art.
The presentation of the song began with drummers beating their way into the school’s gymnasium, followed by singers, musicians and band director Gary Raddysh. They used traditional drums and singing of the Travelling Song. The long vowel sounds and flowing melody of that song present a traditional prayer for safe passage on a journey.
Slowly the song takes shape, with the drum beats integrating into the music of the band. Raddysh says, “from the disjointed union there emerges the harmonious presentation of Steven Point’s song.
As the choir sings they are joined by more and more of the ensemble until the entire group is participating.”
Then, just as it started, it dies back down again to just the beating of the drums.
Bringing the Travelling Song into the British Columbia song is supposed to symbolically represent the joining together in reconciliation, Raddysh says.
It’s not the first time the school has performed the song, says Aboriginal Support teacher Rick Joe.
On May 23, the CSS band and Aboriginal hand drum group performed the song for the first time at the Chilliwack School District’s Aboriginal Awards Ceremony, in front of more than 500 students and their families, along with staff and invited guests.
When Point wrote the song, his hope was that the song would be played by students in high schools as a way to bring First Nations culture into the music program, Joe says, and the hope is that more schools take this song on as a way towards reconciliation.