An early July Sunday evening moved into a crystalline night on Pelee Island and a large crowd, hovered around the half-century mark, gathered to take in Souwesto’s premier island music and arts series, Stone & Sky. There was a point, approximately halfway through the Scarab Club’s string trio set, that a blue heron flew over the treetops that surround the Quarry. As if called forth from the waters at the island’s north bay by the poetics of Nandi Comer, the bird glided past with is wings moving in time with the swipe of serenade from the band below, and the constant, subconscious pathways of Carolyn Hardy’s performative painting. That heron moved with purpose above the gathered crowd. Its grace exemplified the spirit of Canada’s most southern arts and music festival: steady, rapturous, beautiful and well rooted in our world while blessed with a view from above.
2019 Kresge Foundation Artist and Detroit-based poet Nandi Comer opened the fourth installment of this year’s season with a powerful presentation of poems that drew the crowded amphitheater into a rapture of shared experience through lyric imagery and happenings. Comer read from her recent collection of poems American Family: A Syndrome (Finishing Line, 2018) and her upcoming collection about Mexican Wrestling with Northwestern University Press. Her words carried those in attendance to her mythic city, home on the straits between great lakes. She ended the performance with an homage to Detroit Techno, opening the cooling atmosphere of the Quarry for string trio to take centre stage.
At the acoustic heart of the magnificent rock amphitheater, the Scarab Club’s string trio of Laura Roelofs, Velda Kelly, and Nadine Deleury, delighted those gathered with an invigorating set. Through their string selections, they carried the audience around the world from Austria, to Ghana, to France, and back to Canada. Their performance brought to life our great southern outpost with work ranging from Argentine Adrianna Figueroa, to Canada’s own Jeff Smallman, to Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz, to the fine Frenchman Paul de Wailly.
Kingsville-based Surrealist painter Carolyn Hardy provided a dance of colour and form as she crafted a live performance painting that accompanied both the performances of Comer and the Scarab Club. Swirls of lavender and cosmic purples mimicked the swells of Waabiishkiigo Gchigami (Lake Erie) and as the hour-long performance drew to a close the crowd witnessed the silhouette of Pelee Island rise triumphantly onto the large wood backdrop that she had chosen for her canvas.
As is the staple for the series the evening ended in time for the final ferry back to the mainland. After a short window of conversation between audience members and participants, those gathered for this installment of the 2019 Stone & Sky performance headed to the places they need to take in the fading hours of another summer weekend, well-fed on burgers and homemade pies served up by Pelee ArtWorks.