From the Experimental to the Sublime

Is there a better outdoor amphitheater than that of a limestone quarry? Certainly not when frogs go a giggin’. In the recent Stone & Sky Music & Art Series, the motif was all frogs and nature. 
Feminist poet Jennifer Sampirisi opened the evening with exuberant praise for the venue, which she likened to a “poetry and music drive-in.” And indeed the sounds of nature ruled. Sampirisi’s first piece, “Croak,” merged girls and frogs into powerful Frog-girls. Exploring the themes of time and identity, the selections took a feminist turn with women dressing up like men to win an election. Her best work, however, was her finale, a “sound piece” entitled “Invocation of the Frogs.” The audience kept a steady cadence by chanting “ub ub” as the poet skillfully replicated her vision of frog movement. The piece was delightful. Ribbit! Riddit! Rev-it! 

Next the Windsor Classic Chorale from Essex County took the stage. Artistic Director Bruce Kotowich touted a choral program celebrating 150 years of Canadian music and then opened with Neil Young’s “Four Strong Winds.” A Neil afficianado from way back, I was moved to tears by the folkie version originally written by Canadian Ian Tyson. 

After several folk songs, the music turned atonal with quasi-discordant “art music” which challenged our notion of a traditional chorus. The next piece, however, echoed magnificently off the stones as the group performed “Epitaph for Moonlight” intended to vocally recreate the landscape of the moon. Perfect for the upcoming eclipse, the voices created an edgy and ethereal moonscape–a lunar sonata. 

The chorale closed the evening with the unofficial provincial Ontario song entitled “The Black Fly Song.” Rife with humor and candor, the lively piece brought down the quarry. Slappin’ their legs and singing robustly, the choir declared “[they’ll] die with the black fly pickin’ [their] bones in north Ontario!”

In keeping with the outdoor theme and next week’s upcoming performance of Alchemy, artist Tracy Paterson’s oilcloth painting bearing symbols of water provided a suitable backdrop for the rousing tribute to jumping amphibians, biting insects, and bucolic island life. 

Betsy Miller

The Island Spectator