A familiar duo in Prince Albert’s music scene is hitting the stage next week to perform their holiday album live for the first time.
Jay and Jo – consisting of sisters Janaya McCallum and Jolissa Trudel – will be performing on Thursday, Nov. 30 with pianist Brenner Holash at the Rock Trout Cafe.
“It’s been long anticipated,” said McCallum.
“We released this album in 2021, that Christmas. I was living up in the Arctic while I was producing it and while it was released, so we definitely didn’t have a chance to perform it or have an album release concert.”
McCallum and her husband lived up north for a year in a tiny, isolated hamlet. Although the songs were chosen beforehand, she said knowing that they would be venturing to the Arctic region influenced parts of the album.
“The instrumentation on the album, we kept it pretty raw and honest and that’s very different than how our other albums sounded. I think that was maybe the effect of that,” she said.
“I kept it nice and simple and how we sound in real life.”
The album, titled Ahantonhia, consists of eight songs. McCallum said one song re-envisions what’s believed to be the oldest Canadian Christmas hymn written in the mid-1600s, called ‘The Huron Carol’ or ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime.’
A Jesuit missionary wrote the song in his traditional Huron, or Wendat, language, which was translated to English in 1926.
“I noticed that the English translation of their language, like the indigenous language, was really poor, like the version that we’ve been singing for centuries since then,” said McCallum.
“I re-wrote the lyrics more closely based on that original Wendap translation – very literal.”
While the sister will be performing other music, McCallum said the show will centre around their Ahantonhia album.
McCallum hopes the comforting feel of their performance will allow the audience to escape from the busy holiday season and focus on community connections.
“We’ll be telling lots of stories, giving insight into the songs. Jo and I really value connecting with the audience, being personable up there,” she said.
“It will be intimate and really focused on harmonies and lyrics and just getting into the Christmas season.”
Jay and Jo won Roots Artist of the Year at the Saskatchewan Country Music Awards in 2019. The sisters are also part of their wider family band, The Trudel Family. The show at the Rock Trout Cafe takes place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is $18.