Prince Albert Concert Band and Stobart Drummers ‘Coming together for Christmas’

Members of the Prince Albert Concert Band begin rehearsing at Calvary United Church. The band will perform with the Stobart Drummers at Coming Together for Christmas on Sunday. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Prince Albert Concert Band and Stobart Community School Drumming Group are coming together for a mixing of styles at the Prince Albert Public Library.

The two groups will perform piece composed by Calgary-based musicians Michael Gardner and Walter MacDonald White Bear that combined concert band instruments and traditional indigenous drumming. The piece will be the main focus of Coming Together for Christmas, which is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 17 at the library theatre.

“I’m pretty excited about the potential for this performance,” PA Concert Band musical director Shannon Fehr said.

“I see that as our role in this community, as the concert band. Music has a lot of ways to reach out to other people, and I think this is one of the things that’s asked of us in the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.”

After hearing about the piece, Fehr contacted Herb Seesequasis so see if he was interested in a collaboration. Seesequasis is the drum and dance coordinator at Stobart Community School, where he oversees a student drumming group.

Seesequasis said he was surprised by the offer, but also interested.

“Our styles of music are different, but it’s all to reach the person inside, to show that yes, music is the lifeblood of all of us,” he said. “Our drum represents the heartbeat of the earth, so we can all work very well together to put on a good show for everybody who’s coming … and show that we can all work together in harmony.”

The Stobart Drummers include students from Grade 5 to Grade 12. The longest serving student is entering his eighth year with the group.

Seesequasis said they perform at schools all over the Prince Albert area, and often surprise audiences with their versatility. They even have a Christmas song they perform.

“There is one that was made up quite a few years ago and pretty much almost all drum groups kind of do it,” Seesequasis said with a chuckle. “It’s just a regular pow wow song and then they just throw in Santa Claus and reindeer too. It’s all fun, and everybody seems to like it.”

Students from the Stobart Community School Drummers under the direction of drum and dance coordinator Herb Seesequasis practice at Calvary United Church on Wednesday. — Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Like Fehr, Seesequasis hopes the performance can help build bridges between Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents.

“It’s basically for us to show that, yes, we’re all different, but yes, we can actually occupy the same area, doing similar things,” he said. “We can do all of this together, cohabit the same area, and live in harmony that way.”

Sunday’s performance will also include an original rearrangement of Auld Lang Syne that Fehr created during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Fehr said the song is about remembering past times with friends and family, and about building community. She said many people were unable to do the latter during the pandemic, and that inspired her to create the arrangement.

“At the time I was writing it, we were getting death counts every day, and a lot of those people were senior citizens and people dying alone,” Fehr remembered. “I thought, what greater need for connection than during that time than when you’re in your last moments. It was actually very bittersweet for me, writing it at that time because my parents were old. They both managed to survive the pandemic, but my dad (died) not long after….

“This is the power of music. As soon as I started working on it again for this group, I could feel it. Tears filled my eyes, and it’s not because I did such a beautiful job of arranging it. It’s because everything that was going through my head at the time that I was writing it started going through my head again.”

Coming Together for Christmas begins at 7 p.m. at the Prince Albert Public Library Theatre. Doors open at 6:30. There will also be coffee and a bake sale at the intermission.