Andrew Balfour and musica intima – Nagamo


1. Balfour, arr.: Four Directions
2. Balfour, arr.: Ambe Anishinaabeg
3. Byrd: O Lord, Make Thy Servant Elizabeth
4. Balfour, arr.: Pakaskitawew
5. Byrd: Laudibus in sanctis
6. Balfour, arr.: What Pow’r Art Thou
7. Balfour: Trapped in Stone
8. Byrd, attr.: Reges Tharsis
9. Ferrabosco: Da Pacem, Domine
10. Byrd: Miserere
11. Balfour, arr.: Ispiciwin
12. Balfour: Omaa Biindig

Nagamo (Sings in Cree), is a project that has been on my mind for several years. 

As a former choir boy brought up in the high Anglican choral tradition, growing up singing the glorious choral music of Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons and Henry Purcell, and traveling to England several times singing in English Cathedrals made lasting impressions on me.  As a 60’s scooper, I was taken away from my Indigenous family when I was a baby, but luckily was raised in a loving and very musical family.  I have spent most of my life trying to identify my Indigenous blood, culture and language.  Through my composing and collaboration with Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists it has been a beautiful Ispiciwin (Journey).

Nagamo is a reimagining of history.  By taking choral music of the Elizabethan masters and other later choral music, I have reshaped the thoughts behind the texts, by changing the Latin to Ojibway or Cree perspectives.  These are not direct translations of the sacred texts, rather a more Indigenous perspective of spirituality, but keeping the beauty of the polyphony intact.

musica intima and their Artistic Manager Jacob Gramit were a perfect ensemble for this project.  One of Canada’s finest chamber choral ensembles, musica intima was a joy to work with.  Their attention to detail and their cultural and artistic respect was a journey for all of us.

In this fragile time in history, in the relationship between settler Canada and the Indigenous people of Turtle Island, I feel Nagamo was a powerful and important step in reconciliation and healing.  As well, I’d like to think this is only the first step of many more towards a deeper understanding of Indigenous healing and artistic perspectives on Mother Earth now, and in the future.

Chi Miigwetch
Andrew Balfour

Nagamo is available from:

musica intima: Tabitha Brasso-Ernst, Christina Cichos, Katherine Evans, Kira Fondse, Lucy Smith, Risa Takahashi, Stephen Duncan, Jacob Gramit, Steve Maddock, Carman J. Price, Taka Shimojima, Asitha Tennekoon

Producer: Joanna Dundas 
Recording Engineer: Don Harder
Editing and Mastering: Don Harder
Associate Producer: Jacob Gramit
Project Manager: Lucy Smith 
Cover Art: Sonny Assu
Graphic Design: Sonny Assu

Recorded on the Unceded Territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations, at Pacific Spirit United Church, May 30 and 31, 2022.

NAGAMO was created with the support of FACTOR, The Foundation Assisting Canadian Talent on Recordings, with support from Canada’s Private Radio Broadcasters.  This project has been made possible by the Government of Canada.  Ce projet a été rendu possible en partie grâce au gouvernement du Canada.

TK522 © 2022 musica intima

As we worked through the repertoire for Nagamo with Andrew, he often stated that these pieces can feel like museum exhibits.  Byrd, Tallis, Purcell, these masters of their time, crafted exquisite jewels for the church, the court, or the theatre – and today we place them on a pedestal.  We try to hear them the same way we have for hundreds of years, or to perform them in some “authentic” way.  This music has been the backbone of musica intima’s repertoire for thirty years, and the most thrilling part of this collaboration was Andrew’s permission, or rather his demand – treat this music as being alive, rather than as an exhibit.  Through his adaptations of pre-existing pieces, and through his guidance in our performance of unaltered works, our goal has been to create a renewed relevance for this music; one in which both Indigenous and settler audiences can see themselves.  It has been a great honour to premiere Andrew’s project, and we are grateful to be on this journey of reconciliation with him as our guide.  
Jacob Gramit, Artistic Manager

​​Internationally renowned for their engaging stage presence, impeccable musicianship and new perspectives on ensemble singing, musica intima has earned a reputation as one of Canada’s most unique vocal ensembles. A shared leadership model allows the singers to exchange ideas freely while exploring their own musical creativity, and this freedom leads to dynamic performances where the ensemble engages with the audience directly and spontaneously.Over the past thirty years, musica intima has commissioned more than twenty new works from Canadian composers and has championed contemporary Canadian vocal repertoire across the country and around the world.  Nagamo is musica intima’s eleventh commercial recording; previous releases have garnered three JUNO nominations, and one Western Canadian Music Award. Prioritizing decolonization through collaboration, musica intima has had the recent joys of collaborating with choreographer Olivia C. Davies, visual artist Sonny Assu, and composer/curator Andrew Balfour.