CHARLOTTETOWN, PEI – Victor cal y Mayor does not sing like other natural baritones.
The opera singer is a countertenor, which means that he sings in a high falsetto that mimics the range of female singers.
When Mayor launched into opera in his home country of Mexico, his unique voice made him stand out, but not in a positive way.
In the macho and strongly Catholic culture, he was supposed to “sing like a man”.
He knew he couldn’t stay.
Five years ago he moved to Prince Edward Island and found a home.
“I have always felt very welcome, and the people (were) very friendly and open also in sexual orientation. I’ve never had a problem here, ”he said.
On the scene
The Mayor performed at the Haviland Club in Charlottetown this summer as part of the music, dance and storytelling show, Ebb & Flow: Tides of Settlement on PEI
In the first half of the show, Mayor performed a piece he described as “mainstream opera and Latin American music with an opera voice”.
In the second part, he moves on to dance, combining salsa, cumbia and flamenco movements with a song from the Balkans (south-eastern Europe).
“I noticed that, instrumentally, with all the brass, there is a lot of resemblance to the music of Mexico – the mariachi and the rancheras, because they use a lot of brass.”
Ebb & Flow is a show about the different waves of immigration to Prince Edward Island and how these changes have shaped its modern culture.
For Mayor, combining so many languages and styles of music is a good idea in a show like this.
“It makes sense), not only because I will describe my cultural background, but also because I will be able to show the public that this place is actually very welcoming and very open and friendly,” he said.
In addition to the concrete lineup, Ebb & Flow featured special guests each evening. The following were presented on August 9:
- Vince the Messenger: hip-hop artist.
- Teresa Kuo: Host who created videos for some of the former artists, with Vince the Messenger.
- Sean Pellissier-Lush: hip-hop artist, singer and traditional Mi’kmaw drummer.
- Julie Pellissier-Lush: traditional Mi’kmaq singer and drummer.
- James Mark: saxophonist.
Amanda Mark and Laurie Murphy came up with the idea for the series three years ago.
The two met years before and began collaborating on musical projects, including two groups, Seagals and The Knot, before moving to Nova Scotia and Ontario.
But when they came back, they decided to do something again together.
“So we just thought – which would be really interesting and cool – and we just brainstormed and we came up with this concept of different immigrant communities,” Mark said, adding that they had consulted historians of the island like Ed MacDonald and Jim Hornby.
“We just came up with the idea of bringing together kinds of just personal stories, people’s immigrant experiences, but without a heavy message – just speaking through their own artistic interpretation of their settling experience at home. ‘PEI “
For the 2021 show, each artist told a part of the story of their own immigration to Prince Edward Island or that of their ancestors. Mark, who is a teacher, spoke about the history of the Black Islanders and Dimbo Suckles, a slave from PEI.
While there were several special guests at each show, five performers were part of the ongoing summer programming and the Ebb & Flow Ensemble: Mark, flute and saxophone; Murphy, vocals; Mayor, voice; Tim Hamming, piano; and Nadia Haddad, guitar.
Dingyi Feng was one of the guest performers who shared her experience of bringing Chinese culture to PEI. She played a large stringed instrument known as a guzheng – or just zheng for short.
“This instrument has a deep history. It has over 2,500 years of history, ”she said. “Maybe I can say that Guzheng is a symbol of Chinese culture.”
People sometimes think they can learn a culture just from books, but books can’t capture the feeling of a culture, she said.
“When you listen to music, traditional Chinese music, you kind of feel the flow of Chinese culture. Thus, people can indulge in the feeling that is delivered by the performers.
Like Mayor, Feng’s performance brought together old and new styles.
“I’m going to play a very old play, a traditional Chinese Guzheng play,” she said. “But because I’m a modern person and I’m quite young, I want to add something new to it, so I’ll improvise on an original melody. So, I’m using part of the original melody, that traditional piece, and I’m going to improvise.
Old and new
Completing the theme of the contrast between old and new, east and west, Haddad performed two songs, one of which was in Arabic.
“I learned it after the explosion in the port of Beirut last year, and during the Lebanese vigil, my mother asked me if I could learn this song and sing it for the Lebanese community,” he said. she declared.
“Fairuz wrote the song during the civil war in Lebanon, and it’s about sending your love, kisses, thoughts and prayers to Lebanon.”
In October 2019, protests erupted in Lebanon and are still continuing.
“I found it very relevant and appropriate to sing it today,” Haddad said. “It’s nice to be able to talk about some kind of revolution.”
Performing at Ebb & Flow gave her a rare opportunity to talk about what’s going on in Lebanon, she said.
“It’s also nice to share a part of me that few people know. Not many people know that I understand Arabic and speak a little Arabic.
Mayor, who sings in 18 languages, also spoke about sharing culture through song.
“It is through my voice that I will share how diverse is here on the island… all of us, the artists tonight will add – it’s like different angles of the same thing.”