Joshua Hopkins remembers his sister in this scene from the film Songs for Murdered Sisters.
I can’t think of a more horrific act of hate and misogyny than the one that occurred in the Ottawa Valley on Sept. 22, 2015.
On that day three women were hunted and murdered by a hate-filled man who does not deserve to be named — ever again. He is in jail, but the memories of his victims — Carol Culleton, 66, Anastasia Kuzyk, 36, and Nathalie Warmerdam, 48 — live on as a blessing to their families.
Nathalie Warmerdam was one of three women murdered on Sept.22, 2015. Her brother, baritone Joshua Hopkins, along with composer Jake Heggie and text by Margaret Atwood has produced a song cycle called Songs for Murdered Sisters.
Nathalie is the sister of the Pembroke, ON native Joshua Hopkins, certainly one of the most talented operatic baritones to ever come out of that important valley community.
For the past five and a half years Josh has been working on a way to remember his dear sister and to make a statement about ending this terrible toll. The result is a song cycle called Songs for Murdered Sisters, co-commissioned by the National Arts Centre Orchestra | l’Orchestre du Centre national des Arts and the Houston Grand Opera. It’s an ambitious project that features music by the well-regarded composer Jake Heggie and lyrics by Canada’s own Margaret Atwood.
The cycle was to have been seen in Southam Hall this past spring but COVID-19 had other ideas. … Atwood wrote text for eight songs. She says: “I have known two women who were murdered, both by jealous former romantic partners, so the killing of Joshua’s sister resonated with me. … But I could not promise anything: with songs and poems, they either arrive or they don’t. I then wrote the sequence in one session. I made the ‘sisters’ plural because they are indeed – unhappily – very plural. Sisters, daughters, mothers. So many.”
Jake Heggie, Margaret Atwood and Joshua Hopkins. Photo supplied
Now you can hear and see this powerful piece.
The film version of Songs for Murdered Sisters, directed by James Niebuhr, will premiere with Houston Grand Opera on Friday, Feb. 19. It is accessible via the Marquee TV website and its Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire apps.
The film will stream for free in more than 20 countries for 30 days. An album, to be released on the Pentatone label with Heggie at the piano, will be available for download on all major platforms on March 5, to align with International Women’s Day the following Monday.
Josh’s goal is to get 10,000 Men to Take the White Ribbon Pledge to “never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.” Let’s do that…
Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.