Fire Flowers is the third song from the suite, Heart Songs of the White Wampum, a setting for four poems from the anthology Flint and Feather written by the Canadian poet E. Pauline Johnson. She was raised in Southern Ontario, the daughter of an English immigrant and a Mohawk Chief. Her Mohawk name was Tekahionwake. Two of the poems are taken from a previously published collection entitled The White Wampum. This title refers to a type of shell widely used as currency in North America around the time of western contact. The white wampum was a highly valuable denomination within this monetary system. These poems express Johnson’s love of nature, both in their joy and playfulness and in the sincere way they express feelings of compassion and tenderness. Pauline Johnson died in 1913 and is buried in Stanley Park, Vancouver.
Commissioned by Elektra Women’s Choir, Morna Edmundson, Artistic Director, Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont, Dr. Dawn Willis, Artistic Director, and the University of Toronto Women’s Chamber Choir,
Dr. Hilary Apfelstadt, Conductor.
Commissioned with the generous financial assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Diane Loomer Commissioning Fund for Elektra Women’s Choir.
This movement is dedicated to the memory of Vilupti’s home on Galiano Island, that burned to the ground on Sept. 16, 2014. It was place that held much music, joy, mediation and peace for many people.
And only where the forest fires have sped,
Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head,
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
It hides the scars with almost human hands.
And only to the heart that knows of grief,
Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief,
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
And life revives, and blossoms once again.