Red Pheasant member Baptiste performs with Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra
- Andréa Ledding | December 10, 2021
Falynn Baptiste, of Red Pheasant First Nation, took her language on stage with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (SSO), singing traditional Christmas carols in Cree and English.
The concert, under guest conductor Maria Fuller, at TCU Place on December 4th, came about after Baptiste caught the attention of SSO Executive Director Mark Turner, when she released her album, A Cree Christmas, in 2020.
“The SSO loves highlighting local artists and it was clear Falynn was the perfect fit,” Turner said. “Her voice is beautiful and it’s so moving to hear Christmas carols in a new way.”
Baptiste, a teacher at E.D. Feehan high school in Saskatoon, is also releasing a new single, Little Drummer Boy, this month.
“I’ve always enjoyed sharing music...there’s the vulnerability of being on stage, sharing an organic sound, it’s so short but that moment’s really enjoyable - connecting to the listeners, and just being in a moment of beauty,” she said.
Raised on Red Pheasant First Nation in a Cree-speaking home, Baptiste lost touch with her Cree and Métis roots as she grew older, but music and studying at university to become a Cree language teacher reconnected her.
Baptiste says there's a power that comes from hearing songs we all know sung in the language of the ancestors.
Passionate about preserving Indigenous languages, she instructs students in Cree but also tries to incorporate language in every class she teaches; she has also taught elementary students at St. Francis Cree Immersion.
“My dad was a musician, my kohkom was a singer in ceremony, my family members were part of a pow-wow singing group, so singing has always been a part of my family,” Baptiste said.
Even as a toddler her mother called her “La-La” because she was always singing.
She studied music theory and singing lessons as a child, studying classical music, and began performing as a teenager.
Baptiste says she is a more confident performer now in her mid-30s, appreciative of the opportunity to share music and language with a wider audience, something she always dreamed of.
She grew up following Cree ceremony and singing Cree hymn translations in church, where she learned to read Cree. She began by performing “Amazing Grace” in Cree at age 12, and progressed to singing the national anthem in Cree. One of her first public performances was at the Olympic Torch Relay.
“It’s the power of the language. If you speak to any Elder or any language keeper, they will connect you to the Indigenous ways of knowing that tells us that the language is directly tied to who we are as nehiyawak. It’s tied to our spirit and our soul, so when people hear the language sung in a contemporary setting, there’s just this connection, you don’t have to know the language to have a connection to it - it runs in our blood, it’s who we are.
“A spiritual awakening happens when we hear our language sung.”
Baptiste says language is central to restoring pride in identity, culture and worldview, while also helping bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in a way that brings about reconciliation.
“That’s what we’re trying to achieve, a world that is fair and equitable and welcoming and sharing of all nations, regardless of where you come from,” she said.
“Maybe somehow they take part in creating space for the language in their schools, within their organizations, within their world… language is really important and it will take those alliances, that allyship, partnership and togetherness to keep our languages alive forever, for generations to come.”
Baptiste’s music can be found on Spotify, iTunes, YouTube or her website, www.falynnbaptiste.com