Silver Donald Cameron

Archive for November, 2010

I’m phasing out this blog…

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

Hi, everyone:

I’m phasing out this blog, and concentrating all my efforts — including my Sunday columns — on the blog at The Green Interview, which will soon become my only blog. I hope you’ll move over there with me.

To do that, please go to www.thegreeninterview.com, where you’ll be asked to register with your email and a password. When you’ve done that, click over to “BLOG.” If you subscribe to this blog by RSS — and there’s no other way — just sign up for an RSS feed on the Green Interview blog, and that should be that. I’ve just posted last week’s column there, but for your convenience I’ll paste it in below as well. It’s about a fine piece of work by Nova Scotian composer Scott Macmillan that will be performed tonight at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax.

SUNDAY HERALD COLUMN – November 7, 2010

WITHIN SIGHT OF SHORE

by Silver Donald Cameron

At 6:30 AM on April 16, 1945, HMCS Esquimalt was patrolling the eastern approaches to Halifax Harbour while a sister ship, HMCS Sarnia, cruised westward towards Sambro. They were scanning the ocean floor with a primitive sonar known as ASDIC, looking for German submarines.

There was one down there; U-190 lay submerged near Musquodoboit. The ASDIC operator had not actually identified the echo of the submarine among all the various echoes coming back from the shallow bottom – but when U-190′s crew heard the distinctive ping! of the ASDIC signals striking the hull, they assumed they were being hunted. When they raised their periscope and saw Esquimalt heading directly towards them, they fired a torpedo and fled seaward.

The torpedo struck Esquimalt near the stern, where its depth charges were stored, and the aft end of the ship instantly blew off. The skipper ordered the crew to abandon ship. Sailors scrambled for the life-rafts. The last man to leave the ship, in accordance with nautical tradition, was the captain, who stood on the bow as the ship fell away underneath him. The vessel was gone in four minutes.

Two hours later, when HMCS Sarnia reached the rendezvous point, Esquimalt was nowhere to be seen. Sarnia’s skipper radioed the Halifax Dockyard for instructions, but the Dockyard gave no orders. It was three hours before the Dockyard figured out that something must be terribly wrong – three hours during which Esquimalt’s crew clung to life-rafts awash in the icy sea, slowly dying of hypothermia. Near noon, search planes were dispatched at last, and Sarnia picked up the survivors. In the end, 44 men died, and 27 survived.

HMCS Esquimalt was the last Canadian ship to be lost in World War II. A few weeks later, the war was over. Among the survivors was Lt.-Commander Robert Macmillan, the captain, who became the father of the celebrated composer Scott Macmillan. In 2008, 63 years after the sinking, Scott Macmillan lifted his baton in the glorious old church of St. John’s in Lunenburg. An orchestra drawn from the naval band at HMCS Stadacona and from Symphony Nova Scotia delivered the debut performance of a four-part orchestral work called “Within Sight of Shore,” commemorating the event and telling the story in musical terms. The piece was later presented at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Stephen Pedersen described the composition as “Macmillan’s most impressive and exciting original work since his 1988 masterpiece, Celtic Mass for the Sea.” It was also short-listed for the Lieutenant- Governor’s Masterworks Arts Award. It has not been heard since 2008 – but on November 13, in honour of the centenary of the Canadian navy and to mark the 65th anniversary of the sinking, many of the same musicians will combine to present the piece at the Maritime Museum once again.

“Within Sight of Shore” runs about 40 minutes, and it will occupy the second half of the program. The first half will be the premiere of a 45-minute film, also called “Within Sight of Shore,” by filmmaker Ian Macmillan, the son of Scott Macmillan and Jennyfer Brickenden.

The film covers both the actual sinking and Scott’s quest to capture its essence through music. It includes visits to the spot where the ship went down, and to the city of Esquimalt, BC, which annually holds a memorial service to remember her. The film also provides fascinating insights into the very nature of composition, as Scott sits at his keyboard in the studio, explaining how he derives the themes and melodies that weave together in the work. One poignant touch: Robert Macmillan liked to sing “Beautiful Dreamer,” and phrases from the song represent the skipper’s presence in the musical story.

Ian Macmillan interviews Joe Wilson of Victoria, the only living survivor of the sinking, and Werner Hirschmann, now a Canadian, who was the chief engineer on U-190. In one of the film’s most affecting moments, the Macmillans cast a wreath at the site of the sinking, and Hirschmann casts another in memory of U-190 and its crew, expressing his deep regret that the two crews had to meet as enemies, and not as friends.

That, too, is something to remember, as we honour those who lie at the bottom of the sea.

– 30 –

Within Sight of Shore

Sunday, November 7th, 2010

November 7, 2010

At 6:30 AM on April 16, 1945, HMCS Esquimalt was patrolling the eastern approaches to Halifax Harbour while a sister ship, HMCS Sarnia, cruised westward towards Sambro. They were scanning the ocean floor with a primitive sonar known as ASDIC, looking for German submarines.

There was one down there; U-190 lay submerged near Musquodoboit. The ASDIC operator had not actually identified the echo of the submarine among all the various echoes coming back from the shallow bottom – but when U-190′s crew heard the distinctive ping! of the ASDIC signals striking the hull, they assumed they were being hunted. When they raised their periscope and saw Esquimalt heading directly towards them, they fired a torpedo and fled seaward.

The torpedo struck Esquimalt near the stern, where its depth charges were stored, and the aft end of the ship instantly blew off. The skipper ordered the crew to abandon ship. Sailors scrambled for the life-rafts. The last man to leave the ship, in accordance with nautical tradition, was the captain, who stood on the bow as the ship fell away underneath him. The vessel was gone in four minutes.

Two hours later, when HMCS Sarnia reached the rendezvous point, Esquimalt was nowhere to be seen. Sarnia’s skipper radioed the Halifax Dockyard for instructions, but the Dockyard gave no orders. It was three hours before the Dockyard figured out that something must be terribly wrong – three hours during which Esquimalt’s crew clung to life-rafts awash in the icy sea, slowly dying of hypothermia. Near noon, search planes were dispatched at last, and Sarnia picked up the survivors. In the end, 44 men died, and 27 survived.

HMCS Esquimalt was the last Canadian ship to be lost in World War II. A few weeks later, the war was over. Among the survivors was Lt.-Commander Robert Macmillan, the captain, who became the father of the celebrated composer Scott Macmillan. In 2008, 63 years after the sinking, Scott Macmillan lifted his baton in the glorious old church of St. John’s in Lunenburg. An orchestra drawn from the naval band at HMCS Stadacona and from Symphony Nova Scotia delivered the debut performance of a four-part orchestral work called “Within Sight of Shore,” commemorating the event and telling the story in musical terms. The piece was later presented at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Stephen Pedersen described the composition as “Macmillan’s most impressive and exciting original work since his 1988 masterpiece, Celtic Mass for the Sea.” It was also short-listed for the Lieutenant- Governor’s Masterworks Arts Award. It has not been heard since 2008 – but on November 13, in honour of the centenary of the Canadian navy and to mark the 65th anniversary of the sinking, many of the same musicians will combine to present the piece at the Maritime Museum once again.

“Within Sight of Shore” runs about 40 minutes, and it will occupy the second half of the program. The first half will be the premiere of a 45-minute film, also called “Within Sight of Shore,” by filmmaker Ian Macmillan, the son of Scott Macmillan and Jennyfer Brickenden.

The film covers both the actual sinking and Scott’s quest to capture its essence through music. It includes visits to the spot where the ship went down, and to the city of Esquimalt, BC, which annually holds a memorial service to remember her. The film also provides fascinating insights into the very nature of composition, as Scott sits at his keyboard in the studio, explaining how he derives the themes and melodies that weave together in the work. One poignant touch: Robert Macmillan liked to sing “Beautiful Dreamer,” and phrases from the song represent the skipper’s presence in the musical story.

Ian Macmillan interviews Joe Wilson of Victoria, the only living survivor of the sinking, and Werner Hirschmann, now a Canadian, who was the chief engineer on U-190. In one of the film’s most affecting moments, the Macmillans cast a wreath at the site of the sinking, and Hirschmann casts another in memory of U-190 and its crew, expressing his deep regret that the two crews had to meet as enemies, and not as friends.

That, too, is something to remember, as we honour those who lie at the bottom of the sea.

– 30 –

The Perfect Lunch

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

October 24, 2010

The autumn light slants in across the marshes, strikes the glittering
surface of the slow little river, bounces through tall windows, and
flares up into amber, red and gold in the five little sampling glasses
of beer before me.

Raspberry Wheat Ale, Rojo Mojo Red Ale, Planters Pale Ale, Blue Heron
Extra Special Bitter, Port-in-a-Storm Porter. They’re all delicious, but
the bitter and the porter are exceptional. They’re made by a brewmaster
named Randy Lawrence, whose brewery is right here, right behind that
wall in the Port Pub and Bistro in Port Williams.

Marjorie and I have brought friends from BC, and we’re all delighted.
The ambiance of the pub is alluring – barrel-staved ceilings, dark wood
floors, original art on the walls, a waterside deck, a welcoming air of
warmth, cleanliness and competence. Our server, whose name is Miki, is
friendly and attentive, but never intrusive.

The food is succulent and surprising. Karen has a “spectacular”
lamb-burger with sprouts and yam fries, accompanied by the local
Tidewater cider. Doug orders fish and chips and bitter, with the fish
battered in Planters Pale Ale. Marjorie chooses a pizza loaded with
sausage, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and cheese. She washes it
down with bitter. Along with my five little beers, I have Al’s local
sausage with a bright, spicy sauerkraut and real potato chips – not
French fries but chips, thin slices of potato deep-fried right on the
premises.

I look around the table.

“Is there any way this lunch could have been improved?” I ask. Everyone
shakes their head. It has been, apparently, a perfect lunch – and
perfectly affordable, too.

The Annapolis Valley is amazing right now, a cornucopia of vineyards and
wineries, orchards and cideries, roadside stalls bursting with squash
and onions and tomatoes, artisanal jams and cheeses. You’ve heard of the
100-Mile Diet? The Port Pub does The Ten-Kilometer Meal, a feast in
which every single item – the beef, the butter, the vegetables, the wine
– is gathered within ten kilometers of the kitchen.

How many places in Canada could possibly assemble such a meal? And
here’s the kicker: The Port Pub is a community development project
organized by local citizens working in partnership with a creative
government program.

Dr. Bruce McLeod is the CEO of the investors’ group that owns the pub,
which began with three Port William couples, mostly physicians, getting
together on Friday evenings for drinks and food. Wouldn’t it be nice to
have a congenial place to socialize right in Port William, though,
rather than driving to Wolfville? A place like an Irish local pub, say?

Well, why not? In fact, why not Nova Scotia’s first “gastropub,”
emphasizing fine food?

Nova Scotia has an instrument called the Community Economic Development
Investment Fund which allows a group of community investors to pool
their money and invest it in local businesses. Because such investments
can be risky, investors receive a 30% tax credit. The investments are
also eligible for RRSPs. CEDIFs, says Chris Payne, the provincial
official who supervises them, have been very successful in generating
jobs and profits at minimal cost to government. Prince Edward Island has
just adopted the concept, and the new government in New Brunswick
proposes to follow suit.

McLeod and his friends formed a CEDIF and set out to raise $1.2 million
to ensure that the proposed pub would start with no debt, no rent, no
mortgage. The shares cost $5000, and many of the 60 investors really
didn’t expect to get their money back – but they ponied up $1.4 million
anyway. The Port opened in November, 2007, its kitchen supervised by
famed chef Michael Howell of Wolfville’s Tempest Restaurant.

The pub initially served 200 customers a day. It now serves twice that
number, and on one recent Saturday, says McLeod with mock chagrin, it
had served 400 people by lunch-time, and the CEO had to wait for a
table. It employs 38 people, full-time and part-time, and buys most of
its beer, wine and food from local producers. It’s a solid contributor
to the Valley’s economy.

What’s even better than a perfect lunch? A perfect lunch that builds up
a community. Thanks, guys. Well done. We’ll be back.

– 30 –