Schell: Story of Okanagan ancestors told on the grounds where it took place

The Lake/N-ha-a-itk is a true-life, Canadian opera that tells of the Westbank First Nations and the Allison family.

A world premiere 60 years in the making will be performed in the open air at beautiful Quails’ Gate Winery this August.

The Lake/N-ha-a-itk is a true-life, Canadian opera. Written by Barbara Pentland in the 1950s, it takes place on the grounds of Quails’ Gate—the former home of Susan Allison, the heroine of this opera.

Heather Pawsey, Delphine Derickson

Co-producer and Canadian soprano Heather Pawsey, couldn’t be more thrilled to bring this extraordinary event to the Okanagan.  This unique story between the Allison family, who arrived here in the 1870s and whose log home still stands at Quails’ Gate, and the Westbank First Nations is magical.

Susan Allison’s story in the opera tells of her sighting of a sea creature, n-ha-a-itk, in Okanagan Lake and her experiences with the Sylix people.

Pawsey explains: “This production explores how they tried to learn from each other, despite the language and cultural barriers.”

“It’s been a 19-year dream to bring The Lake ‘home’ to the Okanagan, and these performances—combining historical Canadian opera with contemporary Sylix culture, with music and dance created especially for this production—shows that this amazing land, this rich history, is ‘home’ for us all.”

Not just performed in operatic style, this production will be blending in the sounds and language of the First Nations.

“Musically, it’s profound to be able to sing with Westbank First Nation elder and singer Delphine Derickson:  To blend and trade our vocal styles and languages, and our instruments [First Nations drum, western European instruments of the Turning Point Ensemble] in this wonderful new piece written by B.C. composer Leslie Uyeda especially for these performances.” The music is based on Derickson’s n-ha-a-itk song, which she has generously shared.

Buy your tickets now and don’t miss this powerful experience presented by Astrolabe Musik Theatre and Turning Point Ensemble.

When: Aug. 15 and 16 at 8 p.m.; Aug. 17 at 2 p.m.

Where: Quails’ Gate Winery

Tickets: Adults $45; students $25 from

Reception, dinner and Quails’ Gate wine pairings, and brunch packages available.


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