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Music brings together a multigenerational women’s choir in St John’s

A women’s choir called Sipukewaq Ketapekiewinu’k, meaning ‘voices of the river,’ has brought together women across generations to sing and spend time together. As the group practices together every week, it is helping the community heal from within. Recently, the multigenerational group was invited to perform at the HarbourVoices choral festival in St. John’s from June 29 to July 4. Chloe Drake and Juliana Benoit-Drake, along with other members of the choir, are getting ready to perform at the HarbourVoices festival.

The choir has been performing “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus, with parts of the song translated to Mi’kmaw from English, at a community centre in Miawpukek First Nation. Juliana Benoit-Drake, who has been playing guitar for around a decade, has a guitar solo in the song. She uses music to manage stress and anxiety. Singing with women from different generations helps the community reclaim their language and culture, instilling confidence in many women and girls. According to Benoit-Drake, music can help reconcile intergenerational trauma within the community by allowing them to gather and support each other.

Sipukewaq Ketapekiewinu’k is a choir from Conne River founded in February by music educator Lisa Gillam during her short-term teaching position at Se’t A’newey Kina’matino’kuom, or St. Anne’s School. The choir, consisting of members of all ages, is building confidence in Miawpukek First Nation. Gillam brought the group together by inviting youth she taught and then additional members of the community. The choir practices every Wednesday and has brought a lot of joy to its members.

The women’s choir has had a positive impact on its members, helping them gain confidence and cope with challenges. The music program has been a source of comfort and community for its participants, and plans are underway to continue offering it remotely.