“Cold is the arctic sea, far are your arms from me…”
With the cooling temperatures and first tendrils of frost reaching across the land, I received a request from a previous student for a commission. My task was to create a rendering of James Gordon’s “Frobisher Bay” (please see my previous blog post here for more details about this heart clenching song and my zealous preparation surrounding the project). “Frobisher Bay” is special to my client, not only because of her Nunavut roots, but also as a part of her life’s musical journey. I had the pleasure of singing choral voice parts of “Frobisher Bay” with my past student, and so it was wonderful to create a painting which held the gift of shared musical experience.
“Dark are these sunless days waiting for the ice to break…”
The improvisational creation of paintings is always an immensely personal process, but having had the opportunity to sing “Frobisher Bay” with my client made this particular creative endeavour hit even closer to home. Having recently moved from Ottawa, I didn’t have a chance to bid farewell to everyone that was a part of my life in Ontario. Even though this new chapter in Saskachewan feels natural, inspiring and grounding, I find myself still processing relationships and connections from my time in the nation’s capital. Every student teaches me something, and this particular student opened my eyes to her beautiful province and the fascinating culture of it’s people. Telling of stories through song, dance and spoken word is critical to the survival of Nunavut’s cultural history, so sharing the story of “Frobisher Bay” with my student made me feel a part of that oral history, however small. Shout out to my Nunavut Sivuniksavut family. You taught me so much and it was a joy to sing with you!
“Deep were the crashing waves that tore our whaler’s mast away…”
So back to “Frobisher Bay”. One crisp October morning, I laid out my paints and blank canvas, trusty Bose Soundlink Micro (I need to dedicate an entire blog post to this wonderful little speaker) set on loop for “Frobisher Bay.” To further embrace the Nunavut climes, I turned down the heat in my studio, and stripped down to shorts and a tank top. If I was going to do any true justice to “Frobisher Bay”, I knew I needed to foster a palpable shiver.
“Strange is the whaler’s fate, to be saved from the crashing waves, only to waste away frozen in this lonely grave…”
An hour of continuous shivering and diving into the splintered, fierce beauty of “Frobisher Bay” and I came out the other side with the following creation:
I can feel the ice freezing into the groaning timber of the whalers’ ship. The endless sunless days. The pervasive ache of bodies and spirits longing for warmth, comfort and tender embraces. The striking beauty in the infinity of the skies.
“Long will this winter be frozen in Frobisher Bay”