Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra wins Juno for residential school ballet score

The Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra has won its first Juno award with the score for a Royal Winnipeg Ballet production about the impacts of residential schools on survivors and their families.

The two-CD album for Going Home Star — Truth and Reconciliation won a Juno on Saturday for classical album of the year by a large ensemble or soloist(s) with large ensemble accompaniment.

Composed by Christos Hatzis, the score features performances by the orchestra, Steve Wood and the Northern Cree Singers, and Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq.

"I think this our very first Juno award, and we are thrilled," Trudy Schroeder, executive director of the WSO, said Sunday.

"It is really very much a project that we worked on with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet … an important and tragic and powerful story that needed to be told, and that we have a Juno win for a project that is so much characteristic of the way we work together."

Hatzis was also nominated for classical composition of the year for his work on Going Home Star.

Choreographed by Mark Godden and based on a story by novelist Joseph Boyden, Going Home Star expresses residential school survivors' stories through dance and music. It was sponsored by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

- REVIEW | RWB's Going Home Star is inspired and inspiring

The production premiered in Winnipeg in October 2014 and has since been performed in other Canadian cities.

The score, which was performed on stage as well as recorded as an album, combines classical themes with a range of other musical genres and features performances by Tagaq and the Northern Cree Singers.

"Often when orchestras win this part of the Juno Awards, it's in performing Beethoven or Tchaikovsky or a composer or a composition that is very much associated with a European tradition," Schroeder said.

"But this is so beautifully a Manitoba, Winnipeg project, it makes me feel very proud that we can present our community in this way."

Schroeder describes the score as both haunting and hopeful. She said her favourite track is the last one: Morning Song, which runs almost 12 minutes long.

"I find when I listen to it, it really gives me hope for the future of our communities actually reaching reconciliation and working together into our future," she said.

"So it's wonderful to have the win, but it's really wonderful to have it connected to this project."

Also winning a Juno on Saturday was Winnipeg singer-songwriter William Prince, who won contemporary roots album of the year for his solo debut, Earthly Days.

A Tribe Called Red, featuring Winnipeg-based producer Tim "2oolman" Hill, won the Jack Richardson producer of the year award for Halluci Nation, while Manitoba-born musician Tim Neufeld won contemporary Christian/gospel album of the year with his band, The Glory Boys, for the album Hootenanny!