In a rehearsal room at Mildred Hall School, some two-dozen of Canada’s finest choristers belt out: “The City of Yellowknife is requesting a minimum of $8.6 million in water-related compensation from the federally led Giant Mine remediation team.”
They are, perhaps, not the catchiest lyrics of all time. They are indisputably, however, the opening words of a Cabin Radio news article published in mid-August.
Now they will be sung by the Canadian Chamber Choir on the Northern Arts and Cultural Centre stage.
Text from the article forms a small part of Where Waters Meet, by Yellowknife composer Carmen Braden, which receives its world premiere in her home city on Saturday night.
The original report documented a City of Yellowknife compensation claim related to Ottawa’s clean-up of the contaminated former Giant gold mine, on the city’s doorstep. The City spends money to gets its drinking water from a river upstream of the mine site, just in case an unlikely accident releases toxic arsenic trioxide into the adjacent Yellowknife Bay.
“The intent behind that movement is to bring a local issue into the concert, in a musical way,” Braden told Cabin Radio.
“Clearly, arsenic is a big issue for the water here. I was part of the arsenic test, I gave my toenails. I have a young family now and we’re going to be living with this arsenic for a long time.
“I wanted that to be my issue and started looking for some of the more recent articles that came out. I’m a big fan of the language that Cabin Radio uses. It has a real kind-of rhythm to it that I find appealing and, for pacing of words, that really stood out.”
In the movement, the choir chants the article’s opening lines – lingering on certain words for dramatic effect.
However, only Saturday’s Yellowknife audience will get to experience the piece with Cabin Radio’s report at its heart. When performed elsewhere, water-related journalism from local news outlets will be substituted in its place.
“So, when we go to Edmonton next week, there’s actually an article from an Edmonton newspaper that speaks about a local water issue,” said Margo Nightingale, a Yellowknife resident singing alto with the chamber choir.
“That way, the piece can be relevant to every community.”
Where Waters Meet features Wesley Hardisty on fiddle for Saturday’s performance. The Juno-nominated Canadian Chamber Choir, comprising 23 professional singers from across the country, is making its first appearance in Yellowknife.
“I’m so excited,” said Braden. “We’ve been working on Where Waters Meet for two years, over thousands of kilometres. I’ve been to Chicago to work on it with them, to Manitoba.
“From the start, they were interested in having the premiere in the North. It’s such an honour to have world premieres of my pieces here, in my home town.”
Margo Nightingale, centre, rehearses with the Canadian Chamber Choir. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
“It’s a special treat,” said Nightingale, who leads the local Aurora Chorealis choir and is the visiting chamber choir’s “conducting fellow” for the performance.
“The piece draws upon various themes around the power and mystery of water, the danger and wonder of water.
“And who knew we could actually get to sing words like ‘remediation’ and ‘Yellowknife yacht club’?”