Sunday, February 1, 2015

Song #5: This Little River (2015 52-Song Project)

I seem to be having some technical difficulties embedding this video, so here is a link to watch it on YouTube.

The Occasion

I wrote this song for the Petite Riviere Community Park's opening ceremony held in October 2014. The park is a beautiful reclamation of former industrial land near the mouth of the river in Petite Riviere, Nova Scotia. The park has been gorgeously landscaped with indigenous plants by Rose-Marie Lohnes and her team at Helping Nature Heal.

I was invited to sing at the opening ceremony by my friend Leif Helmer, who was instrumental in the creation of the park and is also the founder of Little River Folk (where I've helped out and served on the board) and other community endeavours too numerous to mention here.

When Leif invited me, I figured I would sing River Road, a song about the neighbouring LaHave River which I know many people in our community appreciate. But, as I got closer to the ceremony, I decided that I really wanted to write a song specifically about the Petite River, if I could.

Just a couple of days before the ceremony, I put a call out on Facebook for people to share their stories about the river. Many of my friends and neighbours contributed their stories, thoughts and feelings, and I scrambled to write this song.

The Process

Here's the first draft:

You can see how I tried to squeeze in as many stories as I could: about the group of seven painting the Petite, about a child falling through the ice. There were many other things I would have liked to have included - about the artists, especially the painters and rug hookers who thrive on the banks of the Petite, about some of the stories of daredevil stunts that have involved the river and its many bridges. 

But in the end, I knew that I couldn't fit everything into the song or it would be a 9-minute-long epic! It is only a little river, after all.

Here's the final version:

Because I wrote the song at the last minute, I didn't actually know it very well when I performed it at the ceremony in October. There were a few flubs for sure, but I made some people laugh and some cry. Any performance that does that is a success in my eyes. 

Still, it's nice to present a more polished version now.

The Details (and the In-Joke)

This song contains several "insider" references on its lazy inner-tube ride down the Petite.

The reference to "whitefish" in the fourth verse is a tip of the hat to the Petite for being one of only two rivers that forms habitat for the endangered Atlantic Whitefish

The otter in that same verse was desired for its rhyme with "water" obviously, but I did get a river resident to confirm that river otters have been spotted on the banks of the Petite.

The mention of "Sperry's" in verse six refers to Sperry's beach, a small beach on an outcrop of sand that faces the Petite River on one side and the Atlantic ocean on the other. It sits across from one end of Risser's Beach and is one of five amazing beaches within a ten-minute drive of the community of Petite Riviere. Sperry's is considered the "local" beach. It is accessed by an unmarked road and tourists are generally not told how to get in.

With thanks to Jennifer, Stephen, Bernadette, Susan, Rose-Marie, Dana, Tara, Leif, Anne, Margaret, Scotty, Stacey, Angela, Stephanie, Sharon and Annie for their contributions to the writing of the song.

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