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

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Progress on the new bridge and road in Great Village

I have just now received this photograph from Great Village resident Patti Sharpe, showing another significant development with the new bridge in the village and the shift in trajectory of the road. My plan to hold an Open House at the EB House on Saturday has been deferred, as all the variables that would make it possible have not aligned. At this point, I think I will hold off until the spring, as yet again, Nova Scotia is in the sights of a nor'easter, which is dumping lost of snow in New England and will bring heavy rain and snow to the Great Village area. Winter arrives in earnest. By the spring, all the changes related to the bridge construction and road work will be past. But I thought you would like to see the latest development. Thanks, Patti, for taking this photograph.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

"Cousin Elizabeth" and "Field Guide"

On my recent trip to Halifax to attend the Creative Arts Awards, I had the great pleasure of eating at a new restaurant: Field Guide, which had just celebrated its first anniversary the week before I dined there. This delightful new establishment is owned and operated by a lively young couple, Ceilidh Sutherland and Dan Vorstermans. I mention this experience not only because the food was fantastic and I had one of the best cocktails I have ever had in my life, but also because Ceilidh is Elizabeth Bishop's first cousin twice removed. 

Bishop's favourite aunt was Grace Bulmer Bowers. Bishop exchanged hundreds of letters over the decades not only with Grace, but also with Grace's daughter Phyllis Sutherland. When Bishop visited Nova Scotia in the 1970s, she always spent time at Phyllis's home and she knew her children. Phyllis's younger son David was a particular favourite. He recalls that upon meeting Bishop for the first time in the early 1970s, she brought him the new Grateful Dead album (which he still owns, by the way). I first met Phyllis in 1991, which also meant that I met her sons and their children. In particular, I met David Sutherland's little daughter Ceilidh.
Ceilidh and me about 1992 or 1993 at Phyllis Sutherland's home in Balfron, N.S. We are looking at some of the amazing archival material Phyllis had in her possession, which I catalogued and which now forms part of the Bulmer-Bowers-Hutchinson-Sutherland family fonds at Acadia University, Wolfville, N.S.

I watched Ceilidh grow and go out in the world, travelling like her "Cousin Elizabeth" (which is now Bishop was known in her maternal family). A couple of years ago, Ceilidh and her husband Dan moved to Halifax, N.S., and with their creative, entrepreneurial spirit they opened Field Guide. Elizabeth Bishop would be impressed by the warm hospitality and imaginative menu of this lively eaterie. She would be as impressed as I am by the dedicated work ethic of this young couple. And wouldn't Ceilidh's grandmother be proud. Sadly, Phyllis died in 2011.

If you find yourself in Halifax, N.S., visit this delightful restaurant with its open kitchen concept and its commitment to superb food and leisurely dining. Congratulations Ceilidh and Dan on your first year in business. I'll be back!
An image from the evening when I shared a meal at Field Guide with my friends Mary Ellen Sullivan and Jim Stewart. Ceilidh is standing at the bar on the left, quite grown up from the little girl with blonde curls. Their bar tender is a magician!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Congratulations and Thanks!

Readers of the EB100 Blog will have noticed the absence from the top of our page of the link to our Honorary Patron Suzie LeBlanc's Indigogo campaign to fund a tour of the music of her Christmas CD, Noël de la France à l'Acadie, which had been there for several months.  Set your minds to rest: this is merely a consequence of the project's successful conclusion!   Congratulations to Suzie, and safe journeys to her as she sets off on her travels.

And, most especially: many, MANY thanks to all of you who contributed to making live performances of this beautiful music possible!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Congratulations to Peter Togni and Responsio

Last night Suzie LeBlanc and I attended the Creative Arts Awards in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at which the 2014 Lieutenant-Governor Masterworks Arts Award was announced. On behalf of the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia, I would like to congratulate composer and musician Peter Togni, whose astonishing composition "Responsio" was the winner. The EBSNS was nominator for Suzie LeBlanc and her CD "I am in need of music" (settings of Bishop poems by four Canadian composer), and we were, or course, rooting for this "masterwork" to win. But we are delighted to say that our own Suzie LeBlanc, Honorary Patron of the EBSNS, was also involved in Peter's work. Suzie, along with three other singers and the musician extraordinaire Jeff Reilly, toured Peter's work last year. I had the great privilege of seeing/hearing a performance of this glorious work in Wolfville, N.S., and can only agree with the Masterwork Award Jury's praise of it. Below is part of the press release of the Masterwork Arts Award board, describing Peter's "masterwork."

From the Masterworks Arts Award press release:

The orchestral composition, Responsio, by composer Peter-Anthony Togni, has won the 2014 Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia Masterworks Arts Award which carries a cash value of $25,000. The award was presented last night at the Creative Nova Scotia Awards Gala in Halifax. The winner was chosen by an independent jury of five artists including Catherine Banks, Steve Higgins, Gary Markle, Gwen Noah and Lukas Pearse.

The fifty-minute musical work scored for solo bass clarinet and vocal quartet is built upon a pre-existing composition, Guillaume de Machaut’s 1365 Mass the Messe de Nostre Dame. The composer juxtaposes bursts of bass clarinet improvisation against through-composed vocal material, forming a continuous commentary on the relationship of the individual to the collective. This contemporary recomposition of a work of sacred music serves to contrast modern expressions of free will with the certainty and limitations of the feudal order. Fittingly, the work was first performed in 2013 in St. Bernard Church on the French Shore.

The jury commented that the combination of new and ancient musics integrates classical ensemble singing into a new context. Artistically mature and highly original as a composition, Responsio’s impact will spread internationally, independently of its performance in Nova Scotia. The artist’s work Lamentatio Jeremiae Prophetae was a 2010 Masterworks Finalist.The jury identified five works as finalists for the 2014 prize. In addition to Responsio, they also selected the musical program ‘I am in need of music,’ the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary legacy recording by soprano singer Suzie LeBlanc; composers Emily Doolittle, Christos Hatzis, Alasdair MacLean, and John Plant; the sculpture/installation Harmonic Motion, by Toshiko H. MacAdam and Charles MacAdam; The Thundermaker, a multi-media installation by Alan Syliboy; and the play Refuge by Mary Vingoe. All of the finalists were honoured at a reception at Government House on Wednesday. The winner was awarded $25,000; the other four finalists received $3,000 each.

The Award recognizes the excellence of a particular work of art or performance of art, which has made a significant impact in its public presentation, and has contributed to the historical development and contemporary practice of the art form. The work must have had its first public presentation within the past five years.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

At Government House to Celebrate the Finalists for the Lieutenant Governor's Masterworks Arts Award

Left to right: John Plant, Jocelyne Fleury, 
Suzie LeBlanc, Sandra Barry

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another update about the EB House is necessary

I thought that the EB House update I posted on 16 November 2014 would be the last for this year, but life being life, developments happen and I want to share a couple of things that have occurred just today. Before I go further, I want to reiterate, THE EB HOUSE IS JUST FINE. And I want to thank the friends of the EB House who came to its defense yesterday, and posted comments on Facebook, assuring that all is well at this dear old place.

The first development to relate is that the work on Highway 2 in front of the Wilson's gas stop and the EB House has begun -- necessitated because of the new bridge. I want to thank Patti Sharpe for the photos I am posting, all taken this morning. The first photo is the view from Station Road. You can see the pavement being removed and a lot of activity. The second photo shows the front of the EB House, showing the very reason why we wanted to wait until spring to finish restoring the front lawn.

The second matter is slightly distressing. Last night there was more heavy rain in Nova Scotia and the Great Village River flooded again. This flooding was of a more normal nature (though flooding in November is really not the norm -- any more than flooding on the equinox was, but that event was of an exceptional nature -- once in a hundred years, we hope!). The river overflowed this morning, but in a more normal way, along its sides, rather than with a the wall of water that came crashing from upriver in September.
I have been told by people in the village that the river never really went down to a normal level after the September flood, and it caused concern. My hope is that once the cold really settles in, all this rain will ease. I am told by Brazilian Bishop scholar Carmen Oliveira that there are places in Brazil, Sao Paulo, for example, which are suffering drought. Is there a way we can collect this rain and ship it to the southern hemisphere?! The yard at the EB House was not adversely affected, though I suspect that back part of the property is very wet -- but that is not out of the ordinary, either. The photo below shows the view from the old bridge, looking west.
I also want to mention that, weather permitting, it is our intention to hold an Open House at the EB House on Saturday, 29 November. That is a day of much activity in Great Village. There will be a holiday dinner and a Christmas concert at St. James Church that evening. So, I am hoping for a dry, clear day. I will post a more formal notice about this event next week.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Value of the Elizabeth Bishop House

In today’s online newspaper allnovascotia.com (17 November 2014 issue), there appears an article by Courtney Zwicker about the Elizabeth Bishop House. The menu link title of this piece is: “Bishop House Gets Cheaper.” The main inside title is: “Elizabeth Bishop House Value Washes Away.”

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke with Ms Zwicker about my concern about the impact of the flood of 22 September 2014 on the EB House. I even wrote a letter to the provincial government expressing this concern. The flood had an impact, of course; but the affect on the perceived and actual “value” of the house is a complex matter and must be assessed and understood in context.

My purpose in writing the eight or nine EB House updates that I have posted on this blog since the flood (you can find them by scrolling down this page and going into the archives for September and October) has been to show the impact. The house itself was structurally undamaged and the yard has been restored. I directed Ms Zwicker to these blog posts and assumed she would grasp the context that I presented in them.

I am writing this post to state publicly that I do not agree with the conclusion that the value of the house has “washed away.” This headline is exaggerated, even sensational, and implies a great deal that is not accurate.

There is, of course, the issue of the threat of another exceptional flood (that is what the flood of 22 September was). Perception is a powerful force in the world and the perception that such a threat exists has an impact. BUT the EB House is just fine, as you can see by the update that I posted yesterday (16 November 2014), directly below this post. The perception set up by Ms Zwicker’s piece is distressing and may have its own impact on the value of the house. I feel compelled to state my different view of the matter.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Final Elizabeth Bishop House Update for 2014

Our first hit of real winter in Nova Scotia came on Friday and Saturday: stick on the ground snow and a blast of Arctic air. My most recent visit to the Elizabeth Bishop House was on Saturday, 15 November. I was accompanied by my sister, Brenda Barry, who took the photographs I have included in this post.
First snow in Great Village, 2014. Looking towards the river.
With the arrival of winter weather, we have deferred any further restoration work on the yard until spring 2015, but I am happy to say that the new well pump is installed and purring like a cat. Thanks to Jim Hudson for doing this unexpected job for us.

One of the objects that floated into the yard during the flood, which was deposited there as the water receded, was a large, quite heavy wooden platform. I have no idea where it came from and no one has come by to claim it. It is around 5x3 feet and made of lovely wide boards, in good shape. I decided, since no one has appeared to say they are missing a back stoop, that I would move it to the side of the outhouse (a reminder, this building, decades ago, was literally the last Great Village School outhouse), as a small “deck.” Though it is not the kind of weather to sit and sun one’s self, next summer, it will be a nice spot to put a chair to read.
Sandra on deck.
The work on the bridge is proceeding, but it appears that there is yet much to be done. It seems practical to wait for the spring, when all is said and done to the road, which will need to be reconfigured in some way to accommodate the new trajectory of the bridge.
 View of the new bridge from Station Road.
This post will be the last one I do about the house this year. If something significant happens over the winter, say, for example, we sell the house, I will certainly post any important news; but for now, house updates will take a winter hiatus. So many people have helped set things to rights at the house, and many people at a distance were concerned about the house after the flood, that I wanted to tell our readers what happened there, and to thank all those who have been so supportive.
 Silent remembrance.
Soon, there will be other exciting Bishop news to report about on this blog. For example, on 20 November 2014, we will learn the winner of the Lieutenant-Governor’s Masterwork Arts Award. One of the five finalists is “I am in need of music,” Suzie LeBlanc’s wonderful Elizabeth Bishop legacy recording. As well, I have some news that I will post in December regarding my major work about Elizabeth Bishop, a biographical study that I have called, Lifting Yesterday: Elizabeth Bishop and Nova Scotia. You may notice a new link in the menu of this blog, which is related to this book. Stay tuned for all this important news.
Morning at the EB House, Great Village, 16 November 2014.
 Dawn is breaking.
Morning light in the study.
 St. James in the morning light, through the parlour window.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Elizabeth Bishop House Yard Restoration – Update about progress and a heartfelt thank you

It is hard to believe November has now set in, and with it colder weather and the inevitable snow, which is getting closer. This post is by way of an update about the work happening at the EB House.

I am delighted to report that the EB House has a new front step, thanks to our faithful and excellent carpenter Deverne Rushton. It is great to have the front porch fully restored, indeed, even improved thanks to Deverne’s expertise and effort. Thanks to Deverne for supplying this photo of the new steps.
I discovered during a recent visit to the house that the well pump, which seemed to have been unaffected by the flood water in the basement, has in fact been affected and will need to be replaced. As the saying goes, if it isn’t one thing, it's another. This work will be done this week by local plumber Jim Hudson. We are grateful to have such a good person to do the job. It is one sure fact about Great Village, there is always someone good who can do whatever job is needing done, and do it well.

The front lawn is still not back to its pre-flood state, but it is clear that the new bridge will have an affect on the trajectory of the road (Highway 2), which runs right in front of the house. I have been told there will be road work taking place, so we have decided to hold off doing final work on the front lawn (adding fill and re-seeding it) until the spring. I have heard that the powers that be expect the new bridge to be completed in December (the flood having set back that work by a couple of weeks). So, we shall know then what we will have to work with when we complete the yard restoration next year.

Upon my request, Patti Sharpe kindly took photographs of the new bridge from the head of the driveway of the EB House, just so that you can get an idea what I am talking about, get an idea of the change that will happen – though most of us are still not sure just how things will work.
We took the house off the market for a month while we did the restoration work, but the listing was re-activated on 30 October 2014. You can see more at:

To date, the cost of the restoration at the EB House has reached $3,179.00. Our Yard Restoration Appeal was heeded by some of our friends and supporters and to date we have received about $1,811.00 towards this restoration. We want to extend heartfelt thanks and deep gratitude to the people who contributed to the Elizabeth Bishop House Yard Restoration effort (in money and effort). Your support is greatly appreciated and has been a huge help. Muito obrigada to:
Janet Barkhouse
Binnie Brennan
Rosaria Campbell/Darlene MacIvor
Helen/Larry Cannon
Angela Conway
Eleanor Cook
Gwen Davies
Peter Dodge
Linda Rae Dornan
Denise Duhamel
Jane Finlay Young/Jim Williams
Emma FitzGerald
Ilze Folkins
Celeste Goodridge
Shauntay Grant
Kenneth Gross
Laurie Gunn
Elizabeth Jones
Susan Kerslake
Carol Laing
 Truman/Vivian Layton
Sandra MacLachlan/Barb Bell
Jill MacLean
Megan Marshall
Janet Maybee
Thomas/Leslie Moore
Janet O’Brien
Michelle Orange
Maria Clara Paro
Mary Lou Payzant
John Scott
Wendy Scott
Patti Sharpe
Susan Tooke/Richard Rudnicki
Michiru Tsubura
Janet Parker Vaughan
Christl Verduyn
Rita Wilson
Joan/Peter Wood
Donez Xiques/Judith Stark