"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Music and Medicine -- and Elizabeth Bishop

On Friday, 27 May, 2011, The Medical Humanities--H.E.A.L.S. Program of Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., presents its "Music -- the Best Medicine" -- an annual showcase of the Dalhousie Medical School talent. Featuring the Dalhousie Medical School Chorale, The Vocal Chords and The TestosterTONES. This concert, taking place at Faith Tabernacle at Windsor and Summit Streets, at 7:30 p.m. is sponsored by the Music-In-Medicine Programme of Dalhousie in partnership with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. (Tickets are $15 and can be reserved at 494-6574 -- and available at the door.)

Why do I mention this event, which in and of itself will be a fun time? I have been told by one of the choir members that one of selections chosen for the Chorale to sing is a setting of "I am in need of music" ("Sonnet"), a poem by Elizabeth Bishop. This selection was made because the choir admires the setting, and I think they had no idea that they are performing in the midst of Nova Scotia's year-long Elizabeth Bishop Centenary celebrations.

Bishop was fascinated by all things medical. Indeed, she almost abandoned poetry at Vassar to study science and become a doctor. Marianne Moore talked her out of it. Her own health issues (asthma and allergies) and the fact that her mother and two maternal aunts and two maternal cousins were nurses, makes it no surprise that Bishop had a life-long interest in all things medical. Years ago I gave a presentation to the History of Medicine Society (I think that was around 1997) -- also connected to the Dalhousie Medical school, about Bishop's interest in medicine. So it seems entirely appropriate that this setting of Bishop, which is about the healing powers of poetry (really of all the arts), be performed in this setting, by this particularly ensemble.

What intrigues me is how we are seeing in Nova Scotia our beloved poet find her way into the wider society and culture, taken up by artists of all disciplines and embraced by all types of readers. Perhaps our message about Bishop and her connection to and influence on Nova Scotia, is sinking in.

Scotia Festival of Music is fast approaching and there will be five special Elizabeth Bishop tribute concerts. The Elizabeth Bishop Symposium at University of King's College is also nearly upon us. We will be posting information about both these events in the coming days.

I would have happily put in a link for the Music -- the Best Medicine concert, but there was no website listed on the poster. But do your own search and sites do turn up for related activities.

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