Archive | July 2013

A Night at the Haig-Brown House

Although I have visited the Haig-Brown House several times, I was never fully aware of the trueHaig Brown House 2004-Optimized peacefulness of the former home of the Haig-Brown family until I spent a night there.  The Museum at Campbell River oversees management of the house and property on behalf of the City of Campbell River.  As a Museum employee, I have often been there to participate in the Haig-Brown Festival, the Writer in Residence Open House and simply to visit the site manager.  This year’s site manager for the summer Bed and Breakfast season is Sandra Chow, and when she asked if I could look after the House and her guests for one night and a day, and I was more than happy to do so.

The experience of dealing with guests in the house was very stimulating, but a true understanding of what the House represents comes when one has time to be alone there and to explore.  Writers in Residence have commented over the years that they were very productive while at the house over the winter Campbell River viewmonths, and I can see why.  When you are there at night, a peace descends over the house that is accompanied only by the constant burbling sound of the river making its way to the nearby sea, and the sound of the wind in the trees.  I slept extremely well, and woke up feeling refreshed, and could understand how inspiration would be soon to follow.

During the day, once the B&B guests were on their way, I explored the various pathways Trail on propertyaround the house, fully taking in the true expanse of the property.  There are several places where one can access the river, and on the day I was there, a fisherman was standing in his waders in the middle of the river evoking pictures of Roderick Haig-Brown enjoying his favourite pastime.  Having read stories about the Haig-Brown family Haig-Brown family in library1950's(see left) and their animals, I quite expected the barn and  milk cow to appear and almost fell sorry that they were no longer there.  The house and surroundings in fact, reminded me very much of the house and farm that belonged to my grandparents, who owned 40 acres with about 10 cows, chickens and a pony and a substantial orchard and garden.  Perhaps a large part of my experience was nostalgia and I was grateful to the insight of those who chose to restore the House to the era of the Haig-Brown family occupation which coincided with the early years of my growing up.

LivingroomThe House is very simple and the décor plain but tasteful.  Anyone staying there would not have to worry if they forgot their book, because there are several on hand to read.  The view outside is of greenery and colourful flowers, and here and there you can peak at the river through the trees.  Another asset of the House is its location – it is an excellent jumping off point to go off exploring the Campbell River area either by carrying on down the Gold River Highway west towards Strathcona Provincial Park, heading south to Mt. Washington, going north to Sayward or Telegraph Cove, or east into the heart of the city itself.  There is a very popular hiking trail that skirts the Campbell River just minutes away from the House, and the majestic Elk Falls with its network of trails is not far away.  And of course, fishing is at your doorstep.

To inquire about staying at the Haig-Brown House, call 250-286-4464 or email haig.brown@crmuseum.ca.  The Bed and Breakfast runs from May to October.

All photos are courtesy of the Museum at Campbell River

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Is Bigger Necessarily Better? VI Musicfest Lost Original Intent

IMGP0233I haven’t attended the Vancouver Island Musicfest since 2003, and thought that it was about time I did.  I have very fond memories of the earlier festivals I attended where the magic of the moment and the music swept over the crowd; most specifically when Bruce Cockburn performed to a hushed audience while the sun set on a perfect summer day in a green field.  But on Friday night of the Vancouver Island Musicfest 2013, the crowd was anything but hushed.  Even when the performers came on stage and began playing, many people surrounding my friend and I kept talking, and talking incessantly.  And it wasn’t just one or two people, it was several groups of people.

It was a far cry from what I experienced at the first few festivals I attended when those who came seemed sincerely interested in the music and respected those who were on stage, and the other listeners around them.  We were united in a desire to gain the most from the experience of being there, and of having the privilege of listening to top performers like Robert Cray, Jim Byrnes and Maria Muldaur.

But it wasn’t just the talking that interfered with the ability to enjoy the

David Wilcox on stage

David Wilcox on stage

music.  People were parading back and forth from one side of the field to the other in an endless stream, no matter what was going on, on stage.  This was also something new…  I recall that people sat down and paid attention when the music started, and it was treated no differently than being at a concert.  What could be more important than the musicians performing on stage?  Couldn’t the next ice cream wait until the intermission between players?

And just so that you don’t think that I am alone in my observations, a friend today asked me if I had gone, and she commented, not knowing how I felt, that she didn’t enjoy the festival this year, and that the crowd seemed somehow different.  I agree with her, and part of the difference I think stems from the festival simply being too big.  When there were fewer people there, there was a strong sense of musical community and a sincerity in purpose.

This year, I couldn’t help but wonder why people came to the festival if they planned to chatter the whole way through.  Meet somewhere else if you want to talk to your friend or friends!  Let the music lovers enjoy the performances and get swept up in the music!  For many of us, the festival provides a one time opportunity to see certain musicians – I for one have wanted to see David Wilcox for several years.  And speaking of Wilcox, during his song ‘Bad Apple’, he literally asked people to listen.  It must have been clear from the stage that many, many people there were talking and wandering around aimlessly and could care less what was happening on stage.

Perhaps Kris Kristofferson sounded a bit scratchy and out of tune like an old record album, but he always was a better actor than a singer.  It was other performers who interpreted his songs and made them famous – the man can write!!  Even so, he was invited to perform and was this year’s headliner, yet he wasn’t given the respect he deserved.  If word gets around, the festival’s organizers might find they are scrambling to get performers there.  No one wants to play to an unappreciative audience.

IMGP0245It would be nice to see the organizers take the dollar signs out of their eyes and sell fewer tickets, thereby attracting a more focused and dedicated crowd.  It doesn’t make sense to me that a sold out festival that results in overcrowding is considered to be a successful one.  It should make us question what the definition of success is.

I really enjoyed the festival when people were there to listen and appreciate, because nothing beats the feeling of a large crowd of people being united by the magic of a great performance, and being carried away by beautiful music on a beautiful day.  If your purpose is to talk and to visit, then invite your friend to a coffee shop, and leave the festival to the music aficionados.