[This is a guest post by Claudine Domingue, the director of public relations, and Katherine Semcesen, the senior
manager of education and outreach. Katherine and Claudine are accompanying the
Cinderella cast and crew to the Xstrata Raglan nickel mine in northern
Quebec this week as part of the Ensemble Studio School Tour. This post was written the evening of Nov. 17]
Well, all went "as planned" today. Of course it was only planned yesterday, but that is, apparently, the Raglan Way. You organize and plan to the hilt and the weather changes, or a plane breaks down, or something else happens, and you use the plans you made to make new ones! At least, that's how Mike Welch (GM Raglan) explained it to us. And, I gotta say, it makes sense.
We left at 7:45 this morning for Donaldson Airport—we'd been told that apart from a little de-icing, visibility was good. When we got to the airport they were already busy putting all our stuff in this tiny, tiny plane and spraying de-icing liquid on the wings.
We took off with Jim and Aaron (our fabulous pilots from yesterday) and landed in Salluit at 9:15 a.m. in absolutely beautiful weather. It was so exciting to see the sea meet the land and this little village nestled at the very edge of the bay. The airstrip is at the top of a ridge above the village with a gorgeous view of mountains and sea and sky all around. We piled into a school bus for the trip down and watched as the pick-up truck with all our set pieces and piano drove down ahead of us, the piano balancing precariously on top of all the set boxes, swaying slightly with each bump.
At the school, Charlie, the acting principal (and gym teacher), was so happy to see us. He showed us around, let us get set up, and by the time we started we had about 250 kids and a ton of adults (teachers and villagers) in the gym. The kids were so excited that by midway through the show they had moved up virtually "on stage," touching the singers as they walked by, and grabbing stray boa feathers (part of the costumes) off the floor. They laughed in all the same places as all the other kids. It's good to know that "underwear" gags play well in every language! At the end, the kids completely swarmed the singers and didn't want to leave.
It was truly magical. Everyone wished that we could have stayed a bit longer, and said "À la prochaine" as we left.
We were ready to leave at about 1 p.m., got taken back to the airport and while the crew stuffed our set back in the plane (honestly, I have no idea how they did that!), the cast took the opportunity to throw a few snowballs at each other—we hadn't been outside for a couple of days and it felt good to breathe the fresh air!
We got to Kangiqsujuaq at about 2 p.m., and again got picked up by a school bus and driven down the mountain into the really tiny village (only about 695 inhabitants, whereas Salluit has about 1,200). Again the school was very happy to see us and had arranged for the elders and some community members to attend as well. The performance went well—underwear played to a big laugh again!—and for about 99.9% of the audience it was the first time they had even heard an opera, or even any classical singing before.
After the show, we were treated to tea and bannock (a traditional bread, although they tell us that they only started eating it after the European whalers arrived on these shores) and some Inuit storytelling by one of the elders of the community named Lukasi Nappaaluk (e.g. how fog was "born" according to legend).
He was joined by a woman elder named Kusugalinig Ilimasaug who tried to teach us incredibly complicated string games, of which I only mastered the "dog sled."
The rest were impossible! (Michael Barrett learned one as well, but we won't include a photo, as it's rather scatological.) A young lady named Christina Alaku had brought some beautiful sealskin mittens, pants, and slippers, and a fox coat and told us how she made them, while her baby son (Kiatainaq—named after her great-great-great-great grandfather) perched in a pouch on her back. Michael Barrett, not surprisingly, made pals with him too.
Finally, we packed ourselves back in our plane, flew 10 minutes north, landed at Donaldson, filmed ourselves singing Happy Birthday for Jim's three year-old daughter (he's never once been home for her birthday), and said goodbye to him and Aaron. I told them, in all seriousness, that I had never had better flights than with them, amazingly smooth take-offs and landings. Jim calmly replied, "A lot of people have told me that."
Back at Raglan at about 5:30 p.m. for a delicious dinner of arctic char, caribou stew, smoked char and salmon, delicious cheeses and pâté, and a choice of at least six desserts (we eat very well here). Xstrata CEO Ian Pearce joined us to find out how the day had gone. He was really disappointed that he hadn't been able to come with us and wanted to hear all about the day.
It was a long day, but a very good one, and we were so pleased that everyone appreciated our visit and hoped for our return. It was really rewarding for us too, and we had so much fun.
It's late now, but we're looking forward to our last half-day here tomorrow. The morning will be spent underground for two hours on a tour of the mine. We're so excited!
Posted by Claudine Domingue and Katherine Semcesen / in Xstrata Ensemble Studio School Tour / comments (2) / permalink
Sara Fulgoni in the COC production of Bluebeard's Castle. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2001