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First Nations fiddlers jam on jigs at papal meeting

J-P Mauro - published on 04/10/22

The traditional tones of Métis musical stylings livened up the streets of Rome and the Vatican.

The Métis National Council delegation was accompanied by two masters of the Métis musical stylings, fiddlers Alex Kusturok and Brianna Lizotte. The pair livened up their audience with Pope Francis in a riveting performance of traditional folk tunes. 

Métis music

According to B.C. Catholic, the duo played Métis classics like “Big John McNeil” and “The Red River Jig,” just feet away from Pope Francis. The fast-paced tones of the frantic fiddles were accented by some fleet footwork from Kusturok, which acted as the percussion for the performance. Kusturok likened these seated dance steps to the spiritual energy of First Nation round dances at pow wows. 

In a video shared on YouTube, Kusturok and Lizotte can be seen warming up on the streets of Vatican City.

Kusturok told the Cold Lake Sun that it was “an honor” to share the musical style of his people with the pontiff. He noted how powerful the artform is: 

“The Metis fiddle has the power to move people. It hits you in the heart. It’s music that makes you think, and that you’ll remember. ”

Family

The meeting between Pope Francis and First Nation delegates was of particular interest to Kusturok, as his grandmother was a survivor of residential schools. He said that his grandmother’s experiences have had a great influence on his family, but he noted that he does not feel animosity towards the Church. He is not a practicing Catholic, but he did make his First Communion. 

Now a father himself, with a one-month-old back in Canada, Kusturok told Winnipeg Free Press that he is glad to have been a part of the delegation: 

“I was thinking how great it will be one day that he can read [that] his father was here at this time, honoring the delegates and elders with my music,” he said.

Visit Kusturok’s Facebook page to see footage of him playing before Pope Francis.

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MusicVatican
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