The 19th and very last musical and dramatic Year of the Flood Event took place at the Fraser Auditorium of Laurentian University on November 19, after the Margaret Atwood Birthday Dinner. I arrived at the auditorium not knowing what to expect, because for the Sudbury Event – alone among all of them – I had not been at a rehearsal. There was an atmosphere of suppressed glee, especially among the Banner-bearers: I would be surprised, this told me. And so I was.
After an introduction by MC Sherry Drysdale – a well-known CBC North radio voice – there was an Honour Song, excellently performed by Angela Recollet, manager of Native Student Programs at Laurentian. It said that the honouree had been guided by ancestral spirits, certainly true in my case. Then came the Banner Bearers (Andy Sekora, Stephanie Grant, April Passi, Sandra McPhee, Anthony Cecchetto, Meghan Juuti, Alanna Negssanti and Jennifer Preen), and the Singers of the Ariadne Womens’ Chamber Choir: Pat Bailey, Alice Brownlee, Patti Brace, Danielle Brinkman, Jan Buley, Marissa Charette, Kristina Donato, Mary-Jo Gordon, Amy Hallman, Marybeth Hickey, Leslie King, Shelbey Krahn, Kate McLaughlin, Charlene Mannings, and Hilary Welch). The three Readers were also in the procession: Adam One, played by Dan Lessard, another CBC voice and a good sport, giving vent to his inner pastor; Toby, played by Patricia Tedford, startling in a bright pink raincoat; and Ren, played by Pandora Topp, astonishing and lustrous in a sequined body-suit number topped off by a feather robe. These were accomplished actors who did full justice to their parts, and made the characters very sympathetic and believable.
But this was not the surprising part. It turned out that Sudbury was – through the musical director, Dr. David Buley – bent on full audience participation. For “The Holy Weeds,” Buley hopped back and forth like a ponytailed gnome, pulling two-part harmony for an underlying “Holy Weeds” chant out of the audience, while a solo soprano soared above them. For the Predator Day hymn, he led some serious “constant threat” chanting.
But his most impressive feat was yet to come. After an all-singing, all-clapping finale, and after the bows and waving, up on a giant screen above the stage flashed a giant head: mine! I was handed a scroll, and upon unrolling it, discovered a freshly-minted Birthday Ode, composed by the Margaret Atwood Hymn-writing Club (around a kitchen table, I was later told, at a session during which vinous beverages were not unpresent). The tune was that wonderful Welsh favourite, Cwm Rhondda, and the words were – well, inspirational. Or something. What can I say? (Full text from Rublemusic, 259 Maki Ave., Sudbury, ON, P3E 2PE.) Under David Buley’s direction, the entire audience burst into glorious song.
So there I was – very surprise, pleased as anything, and – for 10 bonus points – still alive. It was grand all round. But what will Sudbury do next year? They can hardly top this!