Musicians prepare for glacier audience
Rehearsals are in full swing in both Kaslo and Nelson this week as singers and musicians from across the region prepare for the performance of a lifetime. Later this month, 70 professional and amateur musicians will play a command performance before an audience of one — a glacier.
Requiem for a Glacier is a four-movement oratorio composed by Victoria-based artist Paul Walde.
The requiem is the most recent and ambitious work by Walde, whose work explores the interconnectedness between landscape, identity and technology. The performance has been conceived for the glacier alone; there will be no audience, other than those contributing to the presentation.
Fundraising for the event also launches this week, with an Indiegogo campaign. Funds will offset the costs associated with staging this event, which is at the forefront of both art and activism. Later this month a public performance of the requiem in Nelson will also raise funds.
To bring such a large-scale work to fruition Walde is collaborating with a team of roughly 100 people. In addition to the 40-person choir and the 30-person orchestra, there will be a conductor, a soloist, mountaineers, a film crew, writers, journalists and photographers in attendance.
Walde and arts curator Kiara Lynch’s recent call for musicians and volunteers was met with overwhelming support by Kootenay residents. “The community response has been enormous, and we hope the response to the Indiegogo campaign will be just as strong,” says Lynch, who is independently curating this project with the support of the Langham Cultural Centre in Kaslo and Oxygen Art Centre in Nelson where the work will be exhibited in October 2013, and January 2014 and the support of the Nelson Civic Theatre.
Located in the Purcell Mountain Range in eastern British Columbia, the Jumbo Glacial Range or Qat’muk, is a high altitude range of five glaciers that have been spared some of the environmental degradation of other glaciers due to its altitude. However, with continued global warming, this geographical advantage will soon be lost and in fact the glaciers are already in retreat.
To compound matters a $450 million resort proposal has recently been given final provincial governmental approval. 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.”
Area residents have been vocal in their opposition to the proposed development of a year-round resort at Jumbo Glacier. The local Ktunaxa First Nation have declared themselves “expressly opposed” to the development, as have many environmental groups.
“I strongly believe that the arts are one of the most powerful tools available to us to respond to issues of concern to our society,” says Lynch. “Our hope is that the ambitious and spectacular nature of this performance will serve to broadcast the message outside this region: Jumbo is too precious to lose to development. Of course the umbrella issue is climate change and the unprecedented rate at which these 10,000 year old glaciers are melting.”
Karen Behn, Stephanie Judy and Jeff Faragher have taken on the role of coordinating choir and musician rehearsals. Faragher, who is both a cellist and artistic director of the Symphony of the Kootenays, expects the musicians will face some new challenges with this performance.
“I’ve played lots of gigs outside, but playing on a glacier is especially challenging. The sound just goes – there’s no feedback. And while the environment is inspiring to an artist, it’s not like playing in a concert hall with engineered acoustics. And of course there are the logistical challenges of getting such a large group of people and instruments up there.”
Just how will Faragher get his cello onto the glacier? “I’ve got a soft case which I’ll strap to my back. And then I’ll just hike it in,” he says.
“There’s a whole team in charge of safety, mountaineering and transportation logistics,” adds Lynch. “We have two ACMG mountain guides overseeing the hike into and out of the glacier, and many strong hands to ferry the instruments, which include five cellos and a tympani drum.”
All of the musicians will gather in Nelson for a three-day workshop during the last week of July under the direction of Ajtony Csaba, conductor of the University of Victoria Symphony Orchestra and Central European Chamber Orchestra.
A public performance of the requiem will take place at the Nelson United Church on the evening of Thursday July 25, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., which will also act as a fundraiser for the project.
For more information, and to make a donation, please visit www.indiegogo.com and search for Requiem for a Glacier after the launch on July 12.