AURORA: A Choral Vision of the Northern Lights

September 12 – October 17, 2020

It was with huge pleasure that we undertook the inaugural project of SING THE NORTH:  AURORA by Nicholas Fairbank.

Our project was based virtually in the Canadian Arctic and featured a live workshop with Nicholas Fairbank, live zoom rehearsals, sectionals, and social events. The project culminated with the virtual choir video featuring singers from 8 different countries, above.

As part of AURORA, we undertook two field trips on the STN Virtual Choir Tour Bus: one to the Subarctic Research Centre in Churchill Manitoba, and the other to the Kenojuak Cultural Centre in Kinngait, where we toured the facility where the famous Cape Dorset Inuit prints are made.

AURORA was a very special project that set the stage for SING THE NORTH.

We hope you enjoy our video, and we send special thanks to Nicholas Fairbank for being so generous and sharing his stunning musical vision of light in the darkness with our fledgling virtual choir.

A Word from Our Composer

AURORA is the 5th and final movement of a large work for two choirs, soloists, piano and percussion entitled Isbjørn!, which is the Norwegian word for “polar bear.” Isbjørn! was conceived during a trip to the High Arctic with the Arctic Circle Expedition in the autumn of 2012. It was inspired by the northern landscapes and maritime settings.

During two weeks sailing in a 50 metre tall ship around the island of Spitzbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago north of the Arctic Circle, I was humbled by the grandeur of the open sky and the barren land uncluttered by human habitation, and stilled by the almost complete and utter silence. For those of us on the expedition, the polar bear became a mythical creature; we were aware of its existence, we spoke about it frequently. We saw footprints, but it was not until the last few days that we actually encountered one. With the drastic environmental changes resulting recently from global warming, the habitat of the polar bear is at risk, and the future of this magnificent animal is uncertain. Isbjørn!, conceived to be performed in a large space with side and rear galleries, is intended, in its small way, as a means of raising awareness of the fragility of the Arctic and its inhabitants.

AURORA was inspired by my experience of the northern lights (Aurora borealis), which we witnessed in a spectacular way on the last night of our sailing expedition. After an hour on deck in the bitter cold wind witnessing the spectacle, I returned to my berth and began sketching out the music. Aurora was first written for a women’s choir, which sang from a rear gallery behind the audience at the Isbjørn! première in Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, BC. For SING THE NORTH, I have added upper register men’s voices which makes the piece a little more inclusive without, I think, changing the original intended effect. 

Nicholas Fairbank, August 2020

Virtual Choir Field Trip – AURORA

Every SING THE NORTH project features a virtual field trip, during which we travel together as a choir to a different part of Canada to meet the people who live and work there.

For AURORA, we went on TWO Choir Field Trips to our Northern region: the Subarctic Research & Education Centre in Churchill, Manitoba and the Kenojouak Cultural Centre in Kinngait, Cape Dorset.

Subarctic Research Centre, Churchill Manitoba

Saturday, Oct 10

Kenojuak Cultural Centre, Kinngait CAPE DORSET Friday, Oct 23