Friday, October 7, 2011

Enjoying Sackville

A couple of weeks ago we spent a warm late summer day celebrating the arts and enjoying the colours in Sackville.

Sackville is a picture postcard heritage town on the Tantramar marsh at the eastern edge of New Brunswick.  This print by Robert Rutherford, seen at Fog Forest Gallery,  is of the Tantramar River

Compact, welcoming and easy to walk around, it exudes a great feel of community, combining heritage and culture with academic excellence. Home to Mount Allison University with its complex of century-old and sympathetic contemporary buildings, Sackville was Cultural Capital of Canada in 2008 and one of the top ten finalists in the 2011 Cultural Centres of the Maritimes.

First stop was the Owens Art Gallery, the oldest university art galley in Canada. Outside a mixed media installation ‘Salt/Marsh’ by John McEwen,  features two classical urns symbolising culture and a wolf representing the natural beauty of the area.

 Current exhibitions on our visit included a traditional Salon hanging of more than one hundred works. Upstairs an intriguing ‘Paper Doll’ installation of mixed media ‘clothing’ with a collection of cut-out paper dolls and their costumes, providing a fascinating side-light on poet Sylvia Plath’s skill as an artist.

The Owens permanent collection of more than 3,000 works, has paintings and sketches by the international artists such as Romney, Whistler and Alma-Tadema; Group of Seven painters and noted Canadian artists such as Michael Snow, Alex Colville, Christopher Pratt, Mary Pratt. The last three former Mount A. faculty members or alumni.

Time for just one more gallery; it was down to Bridge Street and the small gem that is Fog Forest Gallery. Catching my eye here was pottery by Ghita Levin, Peter Thomas and Mary Swan. Tiny, embellished boxes from Janine O-Reilly and the fluid finely wrought mesh sculptural figures of Dawn McMutt were also attention noteworthy.

Walking around this charming town there were many vignettes to photograph and interesting shops to peek inside.

Time to spare before the evening recital we sat, enjoying soft late-day sun, by Swan Pond, reading and talking about our day.

Then enjoyed dessert and tea at the new Dancing Dog restaurant on Bridge Street.

Then we returned to the campus for a recital in the newly refurbished Brunton Auditorium performed by  Mount A.  faculty,  soprano Helen Pridmore and pianist David Rogosin. ‘ Songs of Love and Remembrance’ was an eclectic programme of songs by Debussy and Charpentier; the premiere of ‘In the Stillness of Breathing’ by contemporary composer Helen Hall, the Canadian premiere of ‘Soft Morning’ by James Harley and a third new work, Martin Arnold’s ‘Janet.

Hall’s composition was fascinating in its use of breath and silence,  with Helen Pridmore’s voice flowing easily from tenderness to dramatic insistence.  Despite the qualities of Pridmore’s voice, so well suited to the demands and surprises of modern music, ‘Janet’ was rather visually distracting with the use of a laptop, speakers and a tangle of wires on stage.

Looking at the Department of Music calendar for the coming months there are many excellent concerts, recitals and choral music to look forward to, many at amazingly reasonable ticket prices, some are even free.  

Sackville offers wonderful gifts of the necessary arts. We’ll definitely be driving the highway again very soon.

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