by John Threlfall | Sep 30, 2013 | Alumni, Events, School of Music
The Lafayette String Quartet, artists-in-residence at UVic’s School of Music, is thrilled to be hosting a special fundraising Brahms, Bubbly and Brunch event launching the School of Music’s new Masters Degree in String Quartet Performance program.
Sip on a glass of bubbly at the Inn at Laurel Point’s exclusive Terrace Ballroom while enjoying the epic “Brahms B flat Sextet, Op. 18”, performed by the LSQ, special guest Paul Katz, and beloved local violist (and School of Music instructor) Yariv Aloni. With stunning music, views overlooking the harbour, beautiful gardens and a delectable brunch menu designed by Laurel Point Executive Chef Takashi Ito, this will be an event to remember! Proceeds from the fundraiser will go towards UVic’s Graduate String Quartet Scholarship Fund.
Please join us at 11:00am Sunday, October 6, 2013, in the Terrace Ballroom at the Inn at Lauren Point, 680 Montreal Street.
In recognition of the tremendous support from our colleagues, the LSQ would like to offer special ticket pricing to all faculty and staff in the Faculty of Fine Arts. For you and a guest, tickets (regular $125) are available at a 2 for 1 discount. We are also offering individual tickets for $80. To reserve your seats, please contact Tracy Wadlow (250-721-8908) between 9am – 4:30pm. Regular tickets are $125 inclusive or a table of 8 for $800. Regular ticket purchases may be made online or by phone at 250-721-7919. Again, proceeds from this event will benefit the Graduate String Quartet Scholarship Fund.
The Lafayette String Quartet
A handful of individuals in their collective lives have impacted the LSQ profoundly in their 28 years together, both musically and professionally, and Paul Katz is one such individual. As cellist of the Cleveland String Quartet, president of Chamber Music America, well-respected educator serving on the faculties of Eastman School of Music, Rice University and the New England Conservatory, Katz has been an integral part of the development of chamber music in North America.
It is for this reason that the LSQ has invited Katz to join them in the launch of UVic’s unique Masters Degree Program in String Quartet Performance. This new program allows previously formed quartets the opportunity to study as a group and individually with the Quartet in a two-year program.
Over the past few years, the School of Music’s string faculty has been working with the university to establish a program for young musicians to study intensively—not as individual artists, however, but as a quartet. While there are other institutions where individual musicians can earn graduate degrees in string performance, UVic is now Canada’s first degree-granting institution to offer a Masters Degree in Performance with an Emphasis in String Quartet Performance. This will allow unparalleled collaborative opportunities for young musicians to pursue their research and creative practice.
“This will bring an outstanding student quartet to UVic to work directly with the Lafayette String Quartet for a two-year residency,” says School of Music director Susan Lewis Hammond. “The program will bring the high level of the LSQ’s creative activity directly to students; the result will be an innovative student experience that builds directly on the creative and research expertise of the Lafayette String Quartet.”
For more than two decades, the LSQ has taught some of Canada’s finest young string players, and also used their residency to enhance local performances and community involvement. “Not all universities have a resident string quartet, and there’s a real mentoring by having all of the string teachers in one ensemble,” says LSQ violinist Sharon Stanis. And as the the renewed success of their annual QuartetFest West summer teaching program for string quartet players proved, it seems only natural to create a Masters in String Quartet here at UVic.
Please join the LSQ at this celebratory event and help launch this important new program in the School of Music.
by John Threlfall | Sep 25, 2013 | Award, Events, Faculty, indigenous, Visual Arts
The Department of Visual Arts is proud to announce the appointment of Jackson 2Bears as the 2013/14 Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest. Following in the footsteps of noted Indigenous artists and previous Audain professors Rebecca Belmore, Michael Nicol Yahgulanaas and Nicholas Galanin, 2Bears is the first UVic alumnus—and the first local artist—to be appointed to the position.
A Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia artist, 2bears is a frequent face around campus. Having completed both his Masters and PhD here, he has taught for both Visual Arts and UVic’s Pacific Centre for Technology and Culture. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, and he is currently one of nine contemporary artists participating in the group exhibit, Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art., running to December 15 at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre.
While his classes have already begun—he’ll be teaching both the third-year Audain seminar and a second-year digital media arts course—2Bears’ first Audain duty will be presenting in the popular Visiting Artist series (8pm Wednesday, September 25, in Visual Arts room A162), which are always free and open to the public.
“I’ve been at UVic for a long time, so part of my role is to bring some of those other areas and people together with Fine Arts,” he says. “My personal project is to start plugging this Audain position a bit more into the rest of the university, both for myself and whoever comes next.”
2Bears putting his art into action
Making connections is a large part of what drives 2Bears as an artist. He describes his current practice as focusing on “the aesthetics of Indigenous identity in contemporary times . . . I envision my practice as a form of cultural critique in which I explore alternative ways to engage with the question of Native spirituality in our modern, technological society.”
2Bears works with new media, interactive installations and multimedia performances to reflect on issues of racism, colonialism, discrimination, Indigenous subjectivity and Native stereotypes. “My conceptual interests lay in identifying points of convergence between contemporary technocultural studies, and Indigenous teachings,” he explains, “the aim of which is to reconceive of a means by which we can understand contemporary Indigenous subjectivity in the context of our technological culture by identifying alternative means of engagement and resistance.”
2Bears sees no clash between traditional First Nations and the more contemporary practice for which the Audain position was created to highlight. Paraphrasing noted American Indian author Vine Desloria Jr., he says, “It’s a strange misconception of the traditionalists that indigenous culture happened a long time ago, that we’re always having to go back to the past. But a crucial part of our tradition is change, transformation, evolution.”
Not that he’ll be pushing his students to create First Nations-influenced art, regardless of their cultural background. “That would be a very restrictive model—even if they were all Indigenous students, but didn’t want to work with Indigenous content,” he says. “I do some lectures on contemporary First Nations art, just because it doesn’t really happen anywhere else at the university that I’m aware of, but that’s just coming from my perspective, sharing with the class where I come from. I do want them to explore their own cultural background—but if they are interested in First Nations art, I want them to approach it on their terms, not mine.”
“One thing I learned from Taiaiake Alfred in UVic’s Indigenous Governance program was about encouraging non-Indigenous students to approach things from their own perspectives,” he continues. “We all participate in this landscape called Canada, so it’s not about imagining themselves as an Indigenous person, but approaching things from their own cultural backgrounds. People come from all different backgrounds. I always tell my students not to make stuff I would like, but to find out for themselves what excites them—especially in those crucial third and fourth years, where they’re encouraged to think for themselves and find their own practice. I’m just here to facilitate, moreso than telling them what to do. It’s really important that the teacher-student relationship isn’t one of master/disciple . . . I see it as more participatory; we’re all in a group working together. It’s all about reshaping that teacher/student relationship.
When asked what aspect of that message he’ll bring to the Audain professorship—created in 2009 as part of a $2-million gift from celebrated BC art philanthropist and National Gallery of Canada board chair Michael Audain and the Audain Foundation—2Bears doesn’t hesitate. “Each Audain professor brings their own artistic practice and their own background as a teacher and as an artist in residence as well, so each brings their own talents and creative energy to the school and the space,” he says. “Each year, the course is meant to be quite organic and geared toward whoever is teaching it and their specialty—for me, that means an interest in contemporary First Nations art and an interest in larger social and political issues.”
2Bears performing one of his scratch videos
It will also mean exposing his students to his performance art. Primarily inspired by electronic music and DJ/VJ culture, 2Bears uses remix as a tool for cultural critique—which he’ll be experimenting with in his studio as artist-in-residence. “A lot of what I’ve been doing over the past few years is live cinema—scratch video, I call it,” he explains. “Picture a DJ with turntables, but back in 2005 I started programming a version where instead of just scratching music you could play video on the turntables: spinning it backwards and forward, use the mixer for not just volume but brightness and cross-fading. What I want to do now is build some more audio-visual instruments—some sort of video synthesizer, where I take an analogue keyboard and make it not only produce sound but video as well. I’m also working on some pow-wow drums that will project video images when you play them.”
Clearly, 2Bears has tapped into something with his often playful take on popular Native stereotypes, which he says “function as mixed-media interventions against extirpative and discriminatory representations of First Nations culture.” His multimedia works have been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Toronto’s ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival, Vancouver’s Video In Video Out, Edmonton’s Visual Eyez Festival and the Digital Art Weeks in Zurich, Switzerland—and he has released several recordings and live performances on CD and DVD, in both solo and collaborative contexts. “I tell my students that even when I was doing my undergrad in the 1990s, there was no such thing as ‘video art’,” he chuckles. “New digital technology makes it all so much more accessible to everybody.”
From his Clip Art Self Portrait series
Beyond a greater appreciation for contemporary Indigenous art, 2Bears also sees the artist-in-residence aspect as another strong benefit of the Audain position. “It’s good for the students to see their professors struggling with the same decision-making processes, how to actually produce and make work. It’s too easy for students to see professors as really successful artists where they work hidden away in their studios—but it’s really fantastic to be involved in a more community-like aspect. Again, it changes that whole professor-student relationship.”
Given his participation in the current Ghost Dance exhibit, as well as such recent popular exhibitions as Beat Nation: Art, Hip-Hop and Aboriginal Culture and the AGGV’s upcoming Urban Thunderbirds/Ravens in a Material World exhibit, it seems like a good time to be a contemporary Indigenous artist.
“It’s not that there are more artists now—indigenous people have been making art forever—but I do owe a debt to all the battles that were waged in the generations before me, back into the 1950s and ’60s, when native artists were fighting to have their voices heard and work seen in contemporary spaces,” he says. “During that period, Native art was considered more artifact, more cultural phenomenon—not contemporary work. That shifted dramatically in the ‘70s, so it’s thank to those folks who waged those battles and won them; now, there’s an appetite for it. These multimedia collages are, for me, a means of discovering a self-reflexive path of engagement with my own Native heritage by way of remixing and reappropriating Indigenous identity for myself.”
From Nicholas Galanin’s Ever Shoot An Indian?
On a related note, 2013 Audain Professor Nicholas Galanin is screening Ever Shoot An Indian?, four short films exploring issues around contemporary Indigenous identity. Running on an 18-minute loop, they can be seen 10am to 5pm weekdays to October 4 in the Visual Arts Building’s Audain Gallery. As with all Visual Arts exhibits, this is free and open to the public.
by John Threlfall | Sep 24, 2013 | Art History & Visual Studies, Events, Faculty, School of Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing
Another year, another round of changes to our departments. Here’s a quick guide to what’s going on behind the scenes in Fine Arts.
Paphavee (Poe) Linkul, former UVic student and now Bangkok University professor, with Allan Stichbury at the signing of the exchange last year
The Department of Theatre has a guest lighting designer this year—Paphavee (Poe) Limkul from Bangkok, Thailand. Limkul is the first person to participate in their new exchange program with Bangkok University, which was announced last fall. Theatre also welcomes sessional instructor Denis Johnston, who will be covering the study leave of professor Jennifer Wise. Also on study leave this year is Brian Richmond—no doubt busy with his Blue Bridge Theatre project of converting the old Roxy cinema at Quadra and Hillside to a new theatrical live performance and multi-media cinema space.
Patrick Boyle & the Vikes Nation are set to blow the roof off McKinnon Gym
Over in the School of Music, professors Gerald King, Mary Kennedy, Patrick Boyle and Jonathan Goldman are all currently on leave, with busy visiting professor Suzanne Snizek taking over part of the course load in addition to her flute classes. Music is also jazzed about their new partnership with UVic’s Vikes Athletics, which kicks off with a performance by the jazz ensemble and sessional instructor Anita Bonkowski at a Vikes basketball game on November 23. Music is also partnering with the Vikes in the Vikes Nation Fight Song Contest (details announced shortly). All finalists in the Fight Song contest will be peformed live with Patrick Boyle and the UVic Jazz Ensemble, tenor Benjamin Butterfield and piano professor Arthur Rowe on February 14, 2014.
Tom Hawthorn is the new Southam Guest Lecturer (photo: Deddeda Stemler)
With Department of Writing chair Bill Gaston currently on sabbatical (and nominated for the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize, alongside the recently retired Lorna Crozier), Joan MacLeod has stepped up to fill in this fall, welcoming new sessionals like journalist and children’s author Jude Isabella, poet and playwright Marita Dachsel and Malahat Review editor John Barton. Meanwhile, local veteran journalist Tom Hawthorn has been named the new Southam Guest Lecturer for 2014; his course on the exciting world of sports journalism kicks off in January 2014, just in time for the Sochi Winter Olympics. Professor Tim Lilburn has been invited to appear at Hong Kong International Poetry Nights 2013 in late November—one of the world’s most prominent poetry festivals. He’ll be reading alongside the likes of Syria’s Adonis and Poland’s Tomasz Rozycki and, while in Asia, will also read and lecture at Shantou University in nearby Guangdong Province. Award-winning sessional instructor Frances Backhouse is taking part in two BC literary events this fall: she will present a travel writing workshop at the Sidney Literary Festival (9 to 10:30 a.m. Oct. 5 in the Sidney Library’s Nell Horth Room, $30) and will join six other writers for an evening of readings (7:30 pm Oct. 5, Charlie White Theatre, $25). Backhouse will also be at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (Oct. 25-27), where she will present two workshops and participate in the Blue Pencil Cafe. And, of course, there’s the gala Literary Celebration of Lorna Crozier happening on November 28, a fundraiser for the new Lorna Crozier Scholarship.
Daniel Laskarin’s “Relapse”, from his Belgrade exhibit
Department of Visual Arts chair Daniel Laskarin just finished participating in the International Triennial of Extended Media 2013 in Belgrade, Serbia. Visual Arts professor Robert Youds has a new exhibit, late-day light, currently on view in Saskatoon’s 330g gallery until October 19, and fellow professor Sandra Meigs has a solo exhibit of new work, The Basement Panoramas, running November 1 to December 14 at Open Space. Jackson 2Bears has been named the Audain Professor of Contemporary Art of the Pacific Northwest for the 2013/14 academic year—the first UVic alum to hold the position. 2Bears will be speaking as a Visiting Artist at 8pm Wednesday, September 25, in Visual Arts room A162 about his work as a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia artist, and will no doubt mention the fact that he is one of nine contemporary artists currently participating in the group exhibit, Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art. at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre. Chris Lindsay, one of last year’s MFAs, has taken up the staff position of Workshop Technician, filling in for the recently retired Kevin McGinn. Finally, don’t miss Paradox, the exciting Visual Arts faculty group exhibition, running October 31 to January 12 at the Legacy Art Gallery.
No word back from the Department of History in Art, but we’re sure there’s all sorts of interesting things happening with them too.
by John Threlfall | Sep 12, 2013 | Art History & Visual Studies, Events, School of Music, Theatre, Visual Arts, Writing
While the semester has only just begun, we’re already looking at a pretty full agenda of Fine Arts events for the fall. Below you’ll find the September lineup, but be sure to check what’s happening in October, November and December as well.
• The first Visiting Artist talk in the Department of Visual Arts has already come and gone—featuring independent critic and curator Saul Ostrow, also the art editor at large for Bomb Magazine—but they’ll have more great artists coming in once they get names and dates finalized. Also over in Visual Arts, busy professor Paul Walde is curating the out-of-town exhibit Fictive Realities at the Richmond Art Gallery through to November 3. Presenting new work by five artists working in such technologies as interactive digital projection, artware, video mediated sculptural installation, as well as good old fashioned storytelling, this exhibition literally and figuratively projects alternate visions of our reality while drawing attention to the fictions we inhabit in our everyday lives. Participating artists include Michelle Gay, Steve Lyons plus UVic Writing professor Lee Henderson and Visual Arts instructors Doug Jarvis and Peter Morin.
• Also busy off campus is Aventa Ensemble artistic director and School of Music instructor Bill Linwood, who is presenting the world premiere opera Marilyn Forever. Based on aspects of the life of actress Marilyn Monroe, and written by renowned British composer Gavin Bryars with a libretto by local author and poet Marilyn Bowering, Marilyn Forever is set in the passage between life and death, revealing the essence of a life committed to the ideals of beauty and love, in a world without values. While Linwood is conducting the Aventa Ensemble, the production is directed by Canadian stage director Joel Ivany, with Faroe Island’s premiere vocalist Eivør Pálsdóttir performing the role of Marilyn and Thomas Sandberg performing “The Men” in Marilyn’s life.
Marilyn Forever runs 8pm Friday & Saturday, September 13-14 at the McPherson Playhouse. Pre-performance talk at 7pm. Tickets $42.50.
• School of Music faculty member Alexandra Pohran Dawkins is exercising her “Poetic License” in this Faculty Concert, featuring herself on oboe and English horn with guests Jane Hayes (piano) and Catherine Lewis (soprano). She’ll be offering an arrangement of songs by Schumann and Dvořák, as well as newly created work with Department of Theatre professor and local actor Jan Wood. While “poetic license” can be loosely defined as a deviation from convention in order to achieve a desired effect, there is more than one deviation in this concert, says Pohran Dawkins. “In addition to performing music that was intended for the oboe or English horn, I have included pieces that were not originally written for my instruments. An added element is the improvisation based on the poetry of the songs featured in the concert, taking the deviation from convention one step further.”
Poetic License begins at 2:30pm Sunday, September 15, in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Tickets are $13.50 & $17.50.
(Actually, the School of Music has a number of concerts lined up this month, including a guest lecture and pair of performances by visiting artist and world-renowned German trombonist Abbie Conant. Be sure to visit their concert schedule for full details.)
• The long-running Open Word: Readings and Ideas series returns for another season of collaboration between the Department of Writing and Open Space. First up is multi-talented comics artist, illustrator, sculptor and musician Geneviève Castrée, who will return to Victoria to discuss the art of comics with Writing professor and graphic novel whiz Lee Henderson. Her latest book, Susceptible (Drawn & Quarterly) is described as “an autobiographical trans-Canadian exploration of identity.”
Geneviève Castrée speaks at 3pm Tuesday, September 17, in room A150 of the Visual Arts Building (free), and again at 7:30pm on Wednesday, September 18, at Open Space, 510 Fort Street (by donation).
• Guest trombonist Abbie Conant will be visiting the School of Music this month to present on “New dimensions: A trombonist’s journey from suppressed orchestra musician to music theatre”—in fact, she’ll have three events over three days, September 18 – 20 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall. Together with her husband—the award-winning composer William Osborne—they have a common goal: to explore new dimensions of performance art and create substantial music theatre and multi-media works. During their visit to UVic, Conant—Professor of Trombone at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Trossingen—will perform two works of experimental music theatre composed by Osborne as well as present the free lecture, Alone among men: my relationship with the Munich Philharmonic (8pm Wednesday, September 18 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall). Her performance of Music for the End of Time (for trombone, video and quadraphonic electronics) is based on the Book of Revelation (8pm Thursday, September 19, PTY, by donation), while the world premiere of Aletheia (8pm Friday, September 20, PTY, by donation) focuses on an opera singer who can’t bring herself to go out and perform; while the process explores conceptions of artistic authenticity and the relationship of the artist to society, the work alludes to the life of filmmaker, media artist and cultural critic Theresa Duncan, who died by suicide in 2007 at the age of 43.
• Join the Department of Writing and the editorial team of Concrete Garden as they celebrate the launch of the fall issue of this student-created sustainable urban living magazine. Hot off the presses, the Fall 2013 edition features flavourful stories about people finding sustainable food to grow and eat, from BC to Bolivia. Tasty sustainable snacks plus Phillips Beer, a great selection of door prizes and copies of the latest issue equals an event not to be missed.
Concrete Garden launches 7 to 9pm Thursday, September 19 at Cenote Restaurant & Lounge, 768 Yates.
• With a focus on “Contemporaneity Then and Now”, the 9th Annual History in Art Faculty Research Symposium will offer an interdisciplinary lineup of speakers, including Lynda Gammon and Peter Morin (Visual Arts), David Leach (Writing) and Caroline Riedel (UVic Art Collections), in addition to History in Art’s own Erin Campbell, Victoria Wyatt, Anthony Welch, Martin Segger, Catherine Harding and Allan Antliff. The keynote speaker at this day-long event is Orion Lecturer Terry Smith, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History & Theory at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Smith will be speaking on “World-Picturing in Contemporary Art & Culture.”
The History in Art Faculty Research Symposium Contemporaneity Then and Now runs
10:30am-5pm Friday, September 20, in the Cadboro Commons Building. Free & open to the public.
• Also on September 20 is a concert by renowned Canadian pianist Roger Admiral, who will be playing new works at Open Space—including “Pillar of Snails”, a piece by School of Music professor Christopher Butterfield. (Admiral will also be returning in March 2014 to play with the Victoria Symphony.) Hear him at 8pm Friday, September 20, at Open Space, 510 Fort Street. Tickets $10/$15.
• Visual Arts alum & frequent face around campus Jackson 2Bears has been named the 2013/14 Audain Professor of Contemporary Arts of the Pacific Northwest for the Department of Visual Arts, and he’s the next Visiting Artist to speak on September 25 about his work as a Kanien’kehaka (Mohawk) multimedia artist. 2bears has exhibited his work in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally, and is one of nine contemporary artists invited to participate in the forthcoming group exhibit, Ghost Dance: Activism. Resistance. Art. at Toronto’s Ryerson Image Centre.
Visiting Artist Jackson 2bears speaks 8pm Wednesday September 25, in room A162 of the Visual Arts building.
• Up next is the Department of Writing’s Annual Faculty Reading Night. Join permanent Writing faculty and a selection of current Writing graduate students for this zesty annual reading event, featuring Maureen Bradley, Kevin Kerr, David Leach, Tim Lilburn, Lorna Jackson, Joan MacLeod and Lynne Van Luven. Also on deck will be graduate students JoAnn Dionne, Erin Fisher, Connor Gaston and Fiona Mitchell, all hosted by Fine Arts communications honcho John Threlfall. This evening is always guaranteed to enlighten and entertain!
The Annual Writing Faculty Reading Night runs 7-9pm Thursday, September 26 in HSD A240 . . . and it’s free (of course).
• That same night—September 26—also sees the 8th Annual Lafayette Health Awareness Forum, sponsored by the Lafayette String Quartet. This year’s topic is “Aging well: What you can do today!” Guest speakers Dr. Scott M. Hofer and Dr. Stuart MacDonald (both of UVic’s Department of Psychology), plus Dr. Dorothy Williams, Chief of Staff for South Island at VIHA, will look at questions like, do lifestyle factors delay, or even prevent, age-related declines in memory and health? How will aging look in the future? Will recent generations have more health risks than earlier born generations? We know from a number of longitudinal and intervention studies that engagement in physical, mental, and social activities have important influences on cognitive aging and overall health. While physical and cognitive activity, social engagement, and other health behaviours are important factors in maintaining cognitive and physical functioning over the long term, these same factors matter on a daily basis. Being physically active today is related to your cognitive functioning and well-being today. In this sense, aging well is something we can do on a daily basis.
The 8th Annual Lafayette Health Awareness Forum runs 7-9pm on Thursday, September 26, in UVic’s David Lam Auditorium. To reserve a seat, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
by John Threlfall | Sep 4, 2013 | Events, Faculty, School of Music, Visual Arts
It’s a summer story to melt even the iciest of hearts. Back on July 27 & 28, Visual Arts professor and composer Paul Walde, accompanied by an orchestra and crew of nearly 100 people, trekked to the Farnham Glacier in the Kootenays to perform the site-specific sound performance Requiem for a Glacier for an audience of one: the glacier itself.
Composer and project creator Paul Walde (photo: Pat Morrow)
“This project marks a continuation of my studio research in which I explore interconnections between landscape, identity, and technology, amplifying cultural gestures in order to reveal their place within nature and conversely, by capturing natural events through cultural apparatii,” explains Walde.
Commissioned by Kaslo’s Langham Cultural Centre, the performance was the basis of a new video work that will be the cornerstone of an installation scheduled for October 2013; it will also appear at Nelson’s Oxygen Art Centre in early 2014. The installation will include the history of the glacier, the advent of electricity and climate change, and the government’s announcement of a year-round recreational development and resort community in the Jumbo Glacier area, all summed up in a four-movement operatic work.
As Vancouver Sun writer Bill Metcalfe noted in this July 29 article, “Victoria composer Paul Walde wrote Requiem for a Glacier to bring awareness to melting glaciers in general and particularly to the Jumbo and Farnham Glaciers. Both are within the area approved by the B.C. government to become the Jumbo Glacier mountain resort municipality. That project has been the subject of more than two decades of controversy in the Kootenays.”
As with traditional requiems, Walde’s composition is in Latin . . . the twist, however, was in the translation: the lyrical source material is the B.C. government’s own news release announcing its approval of the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, as well as the published chronology of the approval process.
Csaba conducts the Requiem, with the Jumbo glacier in the background (photo: Pat Morrow)
School of Music professor and UVic Symphony director Ajtony Csaba conducted the 40-person choir and 30-person orchestra, while Walde oversaw the entire production and supervised the documentation of it all. Describing conductor Csaba as “a striking sight, conducting on the glacier wearing traditional concert-hall conductor’s garb,” the Vancouver Sun noted that he had the double challenge of working not only with “a group of musicians unfamiliar with each other and at differing experience levels” but also dealing with “the special difficulties of outdoor large-group performances.”
“It was a challenging situation,” Csaba told the Sun, “because it was hard for them to hear each other. It was a diffuse acoustical environment. But it was fantastic. I have never experienced anything like this, to perform on snow. It was a very interesting and great experience.”
Requiem garnered an impressive amount of media attention—but not just locally. The idea of hiking a 50-person orchestra (plus instruments) along with a film crew, sound technicians, mountain guides and volunteer “sherpas” to help carry all the gear seems to have caught on worldwide. The story was covered in numerous media outlets, including the front page of the Vancouver Sun, on CBC News, New York’s Classicalite music blog, the Cranbrook Guardian blog, Yahoo! News, as well as the German RP Online (“Ein Requiem für einen schmelzenden Gletscher”) and the Asian WorldJournal.com (“抗議開發案 50音樂家登冰河演奏”).
Not all the coverage was enthusiastic, however. The Columbia Valley Pioneer featured a story “Local Skier Not Impressed by Requiem”, and the right-wing American blog FrontPage Magazine (subtitled “Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Screaming to Get Out”) which published an op-ed piece called “Global Warming Orchestra Travels North to Play for Glacier”: “Tree Hugging is so 1980s. Get ready for Glacier Hugging,” they quipped. “If only people would wake up and stop destroying the environment to play music to melting glaciers.”
Playing for a chilly audience of one (photo: Pat Morrow)
Requiem for a Glacier will also be the subject of a documentary film, which will extend the reach of this work and the issues it is exploring. You can help support this project by visiting their Indiegogo campaign. As the project description notes, “Requiem for a Glacier provides a cultural perspective into one of the biggest ecological issues of our time: global climate change and how it relates to the Kootenay region and the highly contentious Jumbo Alpine Resort. Located in the Purcell Mountain Range in eastern British Columbia, Jumbo or Qat’muk, is a range of five glaciers that have been spared some of the environmental degradation of other glaciers due to their high altitude. However with continued global warming, this geographical advantage will soon be lost, and in fact, these glaciers are already in retreat.”
Csaba conducts the Requiem, with the Jumbo glacier in the background (photo: Pat Morrow)
“To compound matters, a $1 billion resort proposal has recently been approved by the provincial governmental. As Professor David Schindler of the University of Alberta warns, ‘Ski lifts and skier traffic on the surface of Jumbo Glacier will hasten its melting, and compromise one of the important headwater sources of the Columbia River system.'”
“In both the Columbia and Kootenay communities bordering the Purcell Mountain range, approximately 80% of residents are opposed to the approval of the resort. In fact, the majority of citizens who live in the region are outraged and saddened by the continued development of our remaining wild spaces. The proposed development area provides key habitat for grizzlies and important other wildlife species and is sacred to the local Ktunaxa Nation who have declared themselves, ‘expressly opposed to the Jumbo Glacier Resort.’ In November 2011 the Ktunaxa Nation was joined by hockey legend Scott Neidermeyer in the Provincial legislature to present the Qat’muk Declaration, which outlines the sacred significance of this area.”