A photo of The Spirit Horse onstage production showing the orchestra with two narrators, an Indigenous drummer and a horn player. Audience comments are shown: "Beyond superb!" "A brilliant show!" "A complete treasure good for any age!" "Quite simply the best children's show I've seen. Should be seen by every audience!" Photo by Matt Duboff Photography.

"The Spirit Horse Returns" is an all-new concert production for symphony orchestras especially suited for families and educational audiences in grades K-8.

An Indigenous knowledge keeper introduces us to mysterious “small horses of the deep woods” who are traditional helpers and spirit guides to First Nations and Métis people.

We are taken on a journey through time, and see how the arrival of settlers means the small "Indian Ponies," or Ojibwe Horses, are pushed aside and used for such purposes as the Gold Rush and Pony Express.

But just when it seems the Ojibwe Horses will be lost forever, the last few are rescued! Through the daring efforts of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people working together, the horses are given new life and new hope. We encounter the diversity of Indigenous cultures as we visit the magnificent Horse Nations of the prairies and jig at a joyous Métis kitchen party. We're gifted a beautiful new song to carry with us as caretakers of the Spirit Horses. An inspiring prophecy is revealed, showing that each of us can help bring about a better world where people of all Nations care for each other and for the land we share.

An image of Jodi Contin drumming in a field while Ojibwe Horses run towards her. Photo: Ken MacDonald
Jodi Contin with Ojibwe Horses

“The journey of the Spirit Horse is a remarkable learning path experience: we can open our hearts to a majestic story that will bring us pride, wonder and healing. All audiences and learners alike will now have an opportunity keep that Spirit alive. In this story of the little ponies there are many lessons we can learn. We thank all of the people who have made this possible. Meegwetch.”

Elder Alison Cox

The Spirit Horse Returns combines an all-new rich and tuneful orchestral score by Kevin Lau with Andrew Balfour, delightful and profound songs by Jodi Contin, stunningly vivid original visual art by Rhonda Snow, and traditional teachings handed down from caretakers of the Ojibwe Horses. Audiences of all ages have responded with overwhelming enthusiasm to this inspiring and age-appropriate exploration of truth and reconciliation.

“The time has come to tell the story of the Spirit Horse, and this is an awesome medium with which to share.”

Elder Dan Thomas


Instrumentation

2(1.2Picc)2(1.2EH)22 / 4331 / timp.perc / hp / str (a reduced orchestration is available on demand)

Runtime: 70 minutes
(A 55 minute version is available on demand)

Spiral-bound books for each musician are supplied. String parts can vary, and parts are supplied for 10,10,8,8,8,8. A score with all text cues is supplied, as well as online links to rehearsal resources for the use of the musicians, conductor, and stage crew. 

Options to add local and youth performers (eg. fiddle, dancers, soloists) and artwork.


Technical

This performance requires the services of two performers supplied by Spirit Horse Returns.

A projector, screen, and computer system for visual art is required. Visual art is supplied as multiple movie cues in a QLab environment. A musical theatre stage manager to call multiple cues must be provided. A cue sheet and script are supplied.

Lighting can be varied to suit the facility.


Educational Resources

A resource package is available which includes in-depth looks at the music and art of The Spirit Horse Returns and is suitable for use by non-specialist educators. Lessons are included that are appropriate for Grades K-7.

Lesson plans and content includes:
• Instruments of the orchestra, musical forms and expression
• Introduction to Woodlands Indigenous art
• Indigenous songs and forms
• Truth and Reconciliation resources
• Trauma-informed resources and suggestions

There is also an pre-show activity guide suitable for younger audience members at a family show.


The Spirit Horse Returns Script by Jodi Contin, Ken MacDonald, and Rhonda Snow. Music by Kevin Lau with original songs by Jodi Contin and with music and consultation by Andrew Balfour. Original art and visual direction by Rhonda Snow. Consulting Elders and Knowledge Keepers: Dan Thomas, Alison Cox, Anita Chechock, Stan Cuthand, Doug Cuthand, Norman Jordan, Skuya Fasthorse, and Wabishki-anaang.

Major funding and support was provided by The Canada Council for the Arts and The Festival of the Sound.
Special thanks to the Richardson Foundation (educational guide), the National Arts Centre of Canada (Music Alive Program), and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.
Canada Council for the Arts
Festival of the Sound

© 2022 Spirit Horse Productions. Video and photography © Ken MacDonald. Artwork © Rhonda Snow.