Flowing words: Water-Themed Poems and Music!

This afternoon, I rehearsed Elizabeth Bishop’s wonderful poem, “At the Fishhouses” with fiddler/violinist David Goldberg at Early Music Vancouver’s office on West 7th Avenue. It’s a poem with both humour and depth, with vivid descriptions that touch upon the profound. David’s expert, soulful fiddling really makes the poem come alive.

This rehearsal was in preparation for the opening concert of the 2022 Vancouver Bach Festival at the Chan Centre at UBC on Wednesday, July 27th! Early Music Vancouver’s Suzie LeBlanc (EMV’s Executive Director and Artistic Director) has organized a sparkling programme which includes Handel’s well-known Water Music, as well as compositions by Telemann and Alasdair MacLean. The superb Pacific Baroque Orchestra and EMV’s Artists-in-Residence, David Greenberg and David McGuinness will be performing.

Christina Hutten’s programme notes for the concert sets the stage for Wednesday’s concert. She writes, “Perhaps, in this city wrapped by river, sea, and rain, you have experienced the wonderful attraction of water; watched mesmerized by the eddies and flow of the Fraser River’s current; or plunged into the water of Burrard Inlet to feel the chop of waves over tide. This program celebrates water with music depicting the timeless tides, music about the sea and its mythical inhabitants, and music to enliven a Thames River cruise.”

There will be a pre-concert talk at the Royal Bank Cinema with Bill Richardson, Celia Brauer of the False Creek Watershed Society, author Bruce Macdonald and myself. Celia and Bruce will discuss a map of Vancouver’s original ecosystem that draws upon nineteenth century surveys. 

In the second half of the concert, I’ll be reading Nobel Laureate, Seamus Heaney’s “Lovers on Aran.” After Suzie Leblanc told me that Heaney was an admirer of Bishop, and was influenced by her work, I had to read more about their connection. An academic article by Christopher Laverty discusses how “Heaney read her Collected Poems in the 1960s, taught her work at Queen’s University Belfast, and the two would become friends in the spring of 1979 when he was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, after which they maintained contact until she died in October of that year.” (Heaney’s lecture about Bishop’s poetry is also contained in his book, The Redress of Poetry.) Toward the end of the concert, I’ll also be reading my poem, “Lost Stream” which was featured recently in UBC’s Trek Magazine’s June issue (reprinted from my book, Odes & Laments).

If you’re curious how David merges Bach and Cape Breton fiddling, please listen to his recording here of baroque and traditional Cape Breton music with other musicians, but there’s nothing like hearing live music in the concert hall. There are several chances to hear him play during the festival!

For those of you who live outside Vancouver or who aren’t comfortable going into a concert hall, you can watch many of the live-streamed concerts online too by purchasing digital tickets here.