STN Concert 1


by Nicholas Fairbank

Aurora – by Nicholas Fairbank

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