Kuyas


'Kuyas' - the lullaby sung by Riel's wife to their child at the opening of Act 3 was originally composed as the test piece for the Montreal International Competition in 1967 - during the same period of time that Somers was also writing the opera. It is a work that can be sung by any voice type, transposed to suit, since the accompaniment is flute playing gestures in a highly limited, easily transposed range, and percussion.

As his wife, Barbara Chilcott recounts, Somers had worked for a long time but was unable to find material that he thought suitable for the opening of Act 3. One summer evening, the two of them sat up talking about this while drinking several bottles of champagne. At one point Barbara asked him “What about Kuyas?” Harry then and there decided to simply insert Kuyas as the lullaby that opens the 3rd Act. It was appropriate musically as well as in the context of the opera since it is based on a Cree story collected from the Canadian prairies at about the same time as the real life story of Louis Riel unfolded.

Kuyas has gone on to have a double life, both as part of the opera and standing on its own as one of the best known of Harry’s concert works.


Text and translations

Kuyás


Sákâstao

Numocwanaw.
Kesamunelo.
Numocwunootao.
Kesamunelo.
Numoowunasao

“Kesamuneto,
ka kesika’k
Ne-yu ka notautayan
ne ku machen.

Ka kesika’k
Ne-yu ka notautayan
ne ku machen-muskwà
Ka kesika’k
ne-yu ka notautayan-
àmisk
Ka kesika’k ne-yu ka-
mooswa
Ne-yu-wapoos

Ka-
Uppishe moos-soos
notayutayan-
ahtik

Ka, ka kesika’k
ne-yu ka notautayan
ne ku machen-
wawaskaseo

Kesamuneto
Pu’kisimoo
Mekisao

Kuyas,
kuyas.
Awuko a ke okimawit
kuyas
kisayinewu.
Awuko kuyas achimoowin.
Auuko
otu uskek
ka pa’tuman
omu achimoowin
Kuyas,
Kuyas
Awuko a ke okimawit
Kuyas.


Long Ago

It is sunrise.

It is fair wind.
Great spirit,
He walks with fair wind.
Fair spirit,
He sails with fair wind.

“Great spirit
now that it is day
I who am hungry
Will hunt.

Not that it is day
I who am hungry
Will hunt –
bear.
Now that it is day
I who am hungry –
beaver
Now that it is day –
moose

I –
rabbit
Who –
jumping deer
am hungry –
caribou

Now that it is day
I who am hungry
will hunt –
elk.

Great spirit
Sunset
An eagle.


Long ago.
Long ago.
That one was a chief
long ago
among old men.
This is an old story.
This
In this land
is what I heard
This story.
Long ago
long ago
That one was a chief
long ago


Il y a longtemps

L’aube se lève.

Les vents sont propices.
Grand Esprit,
il va au gré des vents propices.
Grand Esprit,
il vogue au gré des vents propices.

Grand Esprit
maintenant qu’il fait jour
moi qui ai faim
je vais chasser.

Maintenant qu’il fait jour
moi qui ai faim
Je vais chasser –
l’ours.
Maintenant qu’il fait jour
moi qui ai faim –
le castor
Maintenant qu’il fait jour –
l’orignal
Moi –
le lapin
qui
le chevreuil bondissant
ai faim –
le caribou.
Maintenant qu’il fait jour
moi qui ai faim
je vais chaser –
l’élan

Grand Esprit
Le crepuscule
Un aigle

Il y a longtemps,
bien longtemps.
C’était là un vrai chef
il y a longtemps
chez les anciens.
Ceci est une vieille histoire.
Ceci
dans un payts est
ce que j’ai entendu
cette histoire.
Il y a longtemps,
bien longtemps.
C’était là un vrai chef
il y a longtemps