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Wandering through a garden of sound in St. John's

After seeing guzheng player Jing Xia’s name on the list of performers, I knew I had to attend this Sound Symposium event. The guzheng, a plucked Chinese string instrument, has a sound unlike anything else I’ve ever heard.
After seeing guzheng player Jing Xia’s name on the list of performers, I knew I had to attend this Sound Symposium event. The guzheng, a plucked Chinese string instrument, has a sound unlike anything else I’ve ever heard. — Wendy Rose

With the regular Sound Symposium festival cancelled, organizers opted for 'Echo Village.' an immersive event at the Botanical Gardens

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

A St. John’s-based festival is celebrating a milestone in 2020 — 20 years of the internationally renowned Sound Symposium.

The biannual festival was, unfortunately, cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, event organizers persevered to put on one of the coolest Sound Symposium events I’ve ever had the honour of attending.

Taking place at the beautiful Memorial University Botanical Garden, the sold-out "Echo Village" offered attendees an immersive musical experience, delivered at their own pace.

Your location in the garden determined the soundscape you were experiencing, but as the 14 artists moved around the grounds, the musical landscape was continuously changing, just like the gorgeous views.

Jing Xia took up residence in a greenhouse, the soft and beautiful melodies of her guzheng being one of the first sounds encountered in the garden.

Sheltered in a gazebo, Jack Etchegary played the xylophone. Nearby in another gazebo, Bert Power and Liam Robbins were performing with a series of gongs, bells, and handmade wind chimes.

Wind chimes, made from bullet shells, wrenches, wood and other materials, were a common installation throughout the grounds, inviting people to participate in influencing the soundscape around them.

Delf Hohmann’s electronic installation caused both confusion and delight, as we seemed to walk through a river, the sound of trickling water logically seeming out of place without running water nearby.


Your location in the garden determined the soundscape you were experiencing, but as the 14 artists moved around the grounds, the musical landscape was continuously changing, just like the gorgeous views.


As we moved through the gardens, we spotted clarinet player Holly Winter, playing on a bench off in the distance, the percussionists looping around us with instruments in hand.

Down by the water, Carole Bestvater played violin, staring off into the sunset as dancer Louise Moyes seemingly floated along with the notes carried by the slight breeze.

Also near the water, Sean Panting played guitar to a captive audience, standing behind him as he seemed to serenade the calm waters.

Across the pond, a crew was preparing to launch a boat, paddling vocalist Sarah Templeton around as she sang opera to the crowds gathered by the shore.

Inuk singer Deantha Edmunds was somewhere nearby, but as we continuously moved about the trails, we somehow failed to cross paths with this talented vocalist.

Stumbling into a series of benches at a crossroads of two trails, my friends and I sat down to listen to saxophonist Dani Oore, partially hidden in the trees.

Fully hidden, but audibly close by, trumpeters Emily Finch and Hannah Boone played a musical game of hide-and-seek with Oore, riffing off each other.

You could feel the fun they were having, and you couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces either.

Though unable to import Canadian and international talent this year, producers Benton Roark and Aria Umezawa proved that there’s an abundance of homegrown talent here.

My only criticism for "Echo Village"? That it was only one night. I’d love to relive that magical Sunday evening sunset amidst the most gorgeous soundscape that the Botanical Garden has ever heard.

wendyrose709@gmail.com


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