Many thanks to Anne Wright for the invitation to facilitate and host the labyrinth portion of a cello concert and labyrinth walk she had envisioned with and for guest musician Jami Sieber.
Both Anne and Jami were new to the labyrinth and both were keen to shape an experiential evening based on Jami’s electric cello music and improvisational vocals, with a few spoken poems added in to set the tone.
A keen audience of nearly 100 people gathered to fill the tiny church of St. Luke’s in Ottawa. One does wonder why people come out to these occasions and perhaps this evening it was the combination of a known musician, a connected community of spoken word poets and the opportunity for a new experience in the labyrinth.
It was something of a challenge to create space for each person to enter the labyrinth and establish themselves before encountering another walker but somehow – we all managed.
I observed new latitudes in patience, as many people waited a considerable time to enter the labyrinth, all the while charmed by Jami’s lyrical musical offering. It was a rich evening of metaphor and warm community gathering. It all felt very supportive and enriching.
Perhaps this is the grease this old world needs for us all to be able to live on the planet together. It certainly can’t hurt!
Setting up the candlelight labyrinth is not novel to me, but there is always some new and this year was no exception. This was the eighth annual McKellar Park Labyrinth. As I looked at the kids who were helping me I noted that some were the younger siblings of my usual helpers. The first few years I hosted the labyrinth I found I was explaining it to many visitors but now, eight years on, there is a certain knowledge and comfort level in the community. One older woman came out to help because she had received an email from a friend and just wanted to see what it was all about.
This year I had intended to participate in Ottawa’s first Nuit Blanche on September 22nd but the weather forecast for that day was for certain rain and thunderstorms. So we cancelled and we were so incredibly disappointed, especially when the evening turned out to be perfect after all! Since we were all geared up to put on a labyrinth we decided to go ahead with our usual location in McKellar Park the following week.
One never knows who will show up to help set things up but they always do. The core of my team are my kids, my nieces and nephews and their friends. We had a sunny warm afternoon to work and it was fun to catch up and connect while we filled 700 paper bags with sand and tea lights. As we waited for the sun to go down, we enjoyed an impromptu picnic in the park. I sat, taking in the scene, and wondered why we don’t picnic in our own park more often.
For the Nuit Blanche project I had collaborated with composer and musician, Bruce Nicol. We have worked together on labyrinth projects for several years and Bruce had acted as curator for our Labyrinth as Sanctuary Series at the Cathedral. He had an idea to create a soundscape based on our previous recording of music at our labyrinth events and he acquired some new software to allow him to collage and interweave sounds. He was able to create a spontaneous mix from his collection of pre-recorded soundtracks. One of our guiding principals for labyrinth music is that it be responsive and sensitive to the mood of the participants. Bruce was on site and mixed a customized surround-sound.
My friend and vocalist Antonia Pigot dropped by with to add another layer to the sound collage. At some points she found herself singing along with a recording of herself. I suppose singers do that all the time but she was a bit surprised.
I doubt if any of us would have spent the evening outside, had we not been at the labyrinth. It was a mild night with a few clouds making for a dramatic backdrop.The labyrinth was set up on a baseball diamond and as the full moon rose later in the evening it lined up and bisected our set up. Bruce and his electronic sounds were at home base, the center of the labyrinth was on the pitcher’s mound, and the entrance to the labyrinth with glowing electric blue lights and the full moon were all in a line.
In spite of no publicity or advertising the word got out and people came. It was a pleasure to greet old friends and to have shadowy conversations in the dark.