Days in Banff

I spent my last official week as the Markin-Flanagan Writer-in-Residence in at forest studio at the Banff Centre.  This is my third such stint in one of the Centre’s marvelous Leighton Studios and my first in the Evamy Studio which looks like this:

I spent the bulk of my studio time working on a story about first-time fatherhood for Alberta Views magazine. Though I didn’t finish the piece, it was a productive week.

Also at the Centre that week was a group of artists working on an opera based on the last years of Marilyn Monroe’s life. Another Marilyn, Marilyn Bowering, wrote the libretto based on a book of poems she published in 1987 called Anyone Can See I Love You.  Bowering was at Banff, along with the famed English composer Gavin Bryars; the spooky-sexy female lead, Faroese singer Eivør Pálsdóttir; and all the musicians and crew.

I found it incredible and inspiring to watch them put together an opera in a week. The pace was rushed. Bryars was still composing the music two days before the performance. He writes music by hand, and faxed completed sections to Vancouver where someone else digitized them into readable form and sent them back to Banff where the musicians anxiously waited for them. Bowering altered the libretto constantly, and the musicians had only hours to learn what they had to play.

The creation of the opera was, well, operatic. A great behind the scenes drama. I would’ve loved to have written a ‘making-of’ story about the opera, but I felt privileged enough to have met the players – who answered all my inane questions – and to have witnessed it all unfold.

The grouped staged only two scenes for audiences at the Banff Centre, but will return with a complete work sometime in the next two years. Having been there for its birth, I look forward to see the opera take its first fully-formed steps.

In the meantime, I will listen to Eivør’s remarkable and dreamy music. You should too.

I held an end-0f-residency reading in my studio on my last night in Banff. Unfortunately, the opera crew had left that morning, but a handful of new media artists gathered in my forest hide-away for free wine, chips, and a reading about walls and such. Again, I feel blessed to have met such interesting artists doing such interesting things. For better or worse, I am not afraid of new media anymore.