Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sunday Afternoon by the Fire

It's a chilly Sunday here at Mas Blanc, and although I started down the lane for my usual "constitutional" -- a 45-minute walk down one side of the little river Ourne and back the other -- by the time I'd reached the bridge I had second thoughts, and turned home again, just now lighting a fire and putting on a CD: something reflexive about a blazing fireplace and the need for some warm comforting music.

In this case, it's a CD that has become a passionate favorite over the last several months since receving it in Halifax from a former-student-now-friend, the writer Julie Vandervoort (GOOGLE her, you'll read about her book PERIMETER DOG, published by LIBROS LIBERTAD, a unique collage of creative non-fiction and order it! read it!). Julie  is an environmental activist (among other things) and this passion, as well as her love of singing, led her to the music of Carolyn McDade, an American composer of choral music that celebrates the natural world.  For several decades she has promoted women's singing circles across North America -- have a look at

 There are several CDs to McDade's credit and this one, WIDENING EMBRACE, was recorded in Banff in the summer of 2011, with a choir of  256 women from Canada and the USA. It's beautiful -- lyrical, rich, thought-provoking and soothing all at once. I would never have come to this music, or McDade's urgent message of greater responsibility to the earth, were it not for Julie, and I am grateful for the way that friendship so often enriches me in surprising ways... This music has become part of my life now -- so much so that when I learned that McDade is giving a singing workshop in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia in September, I registered this week.  This decision means a number of changes to summer plans already made, but I know it's the right thing to do. I want to find out what it's like to sing this music with others.

What this also means is that I won't be renting the writer's retreat space here at Mas Blanc in September, so this is a change I'll have to make on the website later today.

But first, back down to the fire and the music. When this CD has finished, I'll put on something instrumental (I've been listening to Beethoven's string quartets recently, getting ready to see the new film A LATE QUARTET) and read... And of course, I'll be reading poetry -- a fire demands poetry, does it not? My choice today will be a second reading of my friend Marilyn Bowering's exquisite, intelligent, compelling new collection SOUL MOUTH, available from

You can view Marilyn reading from her work at