Seasons of the Sea
Interview with violinist Joan Blackman
The beauty of the seasons is something everyone can appreciate and connect with. On November 5th, the Vancouver Island Symphony is pairing the timeless masterpiece Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with violin solo Joan Blackman with the contemporary, cross-cultural collaborative work Seasons of the Sea for an unforgettable evening of music and storytelling.
Seasons of the Sea, with music composed by Jeffrey Ryan and text by Rosemary Georgeson (Coast Salish and Sahtu/Dene Nations) describes the seasons on and by the sea. The words are inspired by the 13-moon season of the Coast Salish peoples who lived in harmony with the tides and the life each season would bring. This amazing piece of art which is woven from equal parts music and First Nations storytelling is a heartfelt collaboration that began back in 2016. “It happened almost by accident, and I had no idea how much it would move me,” recalls Joan Blackman, guest artist. “I credit my husband Larry for putting the bug in my ear about this project. It was the 30th anniversary of the Vetta Chamber Music (of which Joan is the Artistic Director) and we wanted to do something special. Larry had just heard Rosemary Georgeson on the radio. At the time she was the Storyteller in Residence at the Vancouver Public Library. Larry told me he was moved by her fabulous voice and the idea was born to approach her for a possible collaborative commission for Vetta Chamber Music.
“I contacted Rosemary and we arranged to meet. I invited along composer Jeffrey Ryan, who I first got to know when he was the Composer-in- Residence at the Vancouver Symphony. We didn’t know what we were going to create, and to tell you the truth, I was scared to death! Rosemary was not really into classical music, being more of a rock fan, but was eager to be involved,” laughed Joan.
After much discussion, both Rosemary and Jeffrey went off to create and write out their ideas independently of each other. “Then we workshopped it together as a three-some and wove the two artforms together which became an exploration of so many things.”
“Rosemary and I then did a tour, meeting Elders from various coastal nations, and asking permission to include their stories in Rosemary’s text. We then fine tuned it and premiered Season of the Sea on Salt Spring Island including one performance where kids from Penelakut Island were in attendance. They had never heard Vivaldi’s Four Seasons before, but they were enthralled, and the Elders were very moved by the storytelling mixed with the Seasons of the Sea music and it was wonderful for all to experience.”
Our performance with the Vancouver Island Symphony on November 5th will be the first time Seasons of the Sea will be performed as an orchestral version. In the original form it was done with a string quintet only.
“I am passionate about this piece because it is so relevant to our time and speaks to today’s issues of reconciliation and our environment. My dream is to take it to places all along the Coast and share it with everyone. Nanaimo will be the very first stop.” Joan hopes that the audience will have an important take away from the concert… that through music and story it is so much easier to build bridges and open the lines of communication. The message of the two artforms combining and how they worked it out together is a way of finding reconciliation.
Join us for Season of the Sea this Saturday November 5 at The Port Theatre, 6:30 p.m. Pre-Concert Talk with the Artists; 7:30 p.m. Performance.
Article written by Christine McAuley