Gitxsan Translations and Diction Coach
Gitxsan is the language spoken by the people of the Gitxsan Nation and is heavily featured in the opera Missing. Two people have been instrumental in ensuring that this language was honoured and accurate as written in the libretto and sung by the singers: Vincent Gogag (Gawa Gani) and Michael David Schwan.
Gawagani, or Vincent Gogag is a University of British Columbia Gitxsan Research Lab language consultant.
Aside from the work Vincent and Michael did in the construction of the show, they were essential in rehearsals. Singers often have to speak in foreign languages and use both native speakers and phonetic transcriptions of the language (IPA – International Phonetic Alphabet) to help them represent it accurately. In rehearsals, Vincent, the fluent speaker, helped the singers understand the flow and soul of the language. Michael, as a linguistics PhD student, helped coach accurate pronunciation from an articulatory standpoint. Both were instrumental, and the show would not sound the same without them.
I think of Vince Gogag as the true hero of this piece. He provided translations of the text into Gitxsan and then recorded them in a series of audio files. These files were then transcribed into musical notation, preserving the rhythms and inflections of the language. He also wrote the lyrics of the wedding scene at the end of act one and these melodies were adapted with his permission from recordings of his grandfather singing traditional Gitxsan songs. He coached us on the protocols of a Gitxsan wedding ceremony as well as the appropriateness of using drumming in the work.
Brian Current, composer of Missing