Cris Derksen

Cello & Vocals

Cris Derksen


Juno nominated Cris Derksen is an internationally respected Indigenous cellist and composer. In a world where almost everything — people, music, cultures — gets labelled and slotted into simple categories, Cris Derksen represents a challenge. Originally from Northern Alberta, she comes from a line of chiefs from North Tallcree Reserve on her father’s side and a line of strong Mennonite homesteaders on her mother’s. Derksen braids the traditional and contemporary, weaving her classical background and her Indigenous ancestry together with new school electronics to create genre-defying music. 

As a composer, Derksen has a foot in many worlds. Her 2020 compositions include Napi and the Rocks, a symphonic story commissioned by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Same Wave, an 8-part choral piece commissioned by Camerata Nova Choir; and The Triumph of the Euro-Christ, an 8-part choral piece commissioned by the Art Gallery of Ontario. 2019 compositions include Maada’ookii Songlines, a mass choral piece for 250 singers commissioned by the Luminato Festival; Rebellion, a short symphonic piece commissioned by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra; Iron Peggy, a theatre piece commissioned by the Vancouver Children’s Festival; and a new performance art piece commissioned by the National Art Gallery of Canada, Ikumagiialit. 2018 highlights include a DORA Award for Best Sound Design for Theatre for Kiinalik: These Sharp Tools; the TIFF premiere of Biidaaban (The Dawn Comes), a short animation film by Amanda Strong; the Ka:hawai Dance Company production of Blood TidesKamloopa with Western Canada Theatre; a Banff Centre for the Arts String Quartet Residency for White Man’s Cattle; and a woodwind quintet commissioned for Woodwind International, 5 Bucks Per Head. 

As a performer Derksen performs nationally and internationally as a soloist and in collaboration with some of Canada’s finest, including Tanya Tagaq, Buffy Sainte Marie, Naomi Klein, and Leanne Simpson, to name a few. Recent concert destinations include Hong Kong, Australia, Mongolia, Sweden, and a whole lot of Canada: the place Derksen refers to as home. 

2021 commissions include pieces for the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, Ottawa's Chamberfest, the City of Toronto, Edmonton New Music, the Edmonton Symphony with support from the National Arts Centre, Vancouver's Blueridge Chamber Festival, Vancouver Transform Cabaret, and a 4-part docuseries for the Knowledge Network.  A new album of Cris Derksen’s works will be released in 2022.