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February 02, 2008

Cultural Olympiad?

Last night, in addition to inadvertently torturing my friend Lisa who I thought was going to have a meltdown in the pew beside me at Christ Church Cathedral, I got a good reminder as someone who has done publicity for organizations why overhyping an event is always a really bad idea.

The Spirit of Haida Gwaii Concert was overhyped. In hindsight, would I expect anything else given that it is part of what is being called the Cultural Olympiad.

Could we come up with a more pretentious name for Arts events that have come to fruition because of an infusion of cash tied to the 2010 Olympics? Give me a break! If that means you go to an event and you have to endure too many people thanking too many other people in the name of God only knows what, and refusing to use a mic in a venue where the sound isn't really that good, I'll pass next time.

Why, I ask myself would you have an opening letting people in to a space that will be the Bill Reid Gallery in what used to be the Canadian Craft Museum on Hornby Street when it's under construction and there's nothing happening there?

Carvers were carving two totem poles, but they weren't there. They left their tools and their bottle of wine. Maybe the organizers should have gone to FUSE the last Friday of every month at the Vancouver Art Gallery so they could see how to organize an event properly. You can't make something out of nothing. People notice!

The only parts of the evening I really enjoyed, besides admiring the clothing that Dorothy Grant designed for the choir and the opera singers was when the composer Bruce Ruddell shared a story about how Bill Reid had been really worried when he'd completed his sculpture,The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, and he was going to the opening/unveiling of it in Washington DC. He didn't know what he was going to say.

Then, a short time before he was leaving for the event - a couple of days perhaps - he was in his garden and he told his wife to grab a pen and paper at which point a fully realized poem came to him. Apparently, not a single word was changed. His wife, Martine, described it as witnessing the most amazing outpouring of creative inspiration. When you read the poem, especially if you've ever tried to write a poem through many iterations, you understand why it is amazing.

Perhaps in the act of creating his masterpiece he had been absorbing Haida history and consciousness to such a degree that it was only a matter of time before the personas came tumbling back out of him in that fully realized poem that speaks of each character in the boat.

I can imagine this concert working in the middle of a forest, the audience seated on the ground all around a circular stage, smoke from the sweat lodge mixing with the smell of cedar in the air and the recitation of The Spirit of Haida Gwaii poem by someone with an amazing oratorial style interspered between a small orchestra playing and a choir and the drumming of traditional dancers in the distant background.

No introductions required.

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