The Cremation of Sam McGee
Robert Service’s melodramatic work, The Cremation of Sam McGee, must be one of Canada’s best-known poems, especially in the west where its gold-rush setting and frozen imagery ring almost true. Canadians learned its internal rhymes in school, and loved the heroic absurdity of its logically entailed train of events.
The Cremation of Sam McGee Suite, presented at The Traverse this May, is composed by cellist Christine Hanson. It has six movements inter-dispersed among the spoken words, enhanced by the truly striking backdrop of Canadian artist Ted Harrison’s brilliant paintings.
Hanson’s cello evokes the beautifully bleak setting of Service’s poem, and is enriched by the ornamentation and accompaniment of a diverse ensemble including cello (Christine), trombone (Rick Taylor), guitar/mandolin (Kevin Murray), violins (Bruce MacGregor, Gordon Gunn), bass (Kevin McGuire), piano/accordion (Brian McAlpine), and percussion (James Mackintosh).
Hanson’s musical adaptation switches location to the frozen Yukon frontier. The imagery of snow and ice, hope and struggle is unmistakable. The cellist’s original compositions transport the audience across the snow in tandem with this quirky, tragicomic tale.
Narrated with conspicuous relish, and with Harrison’s beautiful Arctic icescapes projected as a backdrop, The Cremation of Sam McGee is a chilling, enthralling and entertaining multi media work, whose music opens a window of deeper themes of friendship, promises made, and eventual rebirth.
Tickets: £16 each
Date: Monday 13 May 2019
Doors open: 7.30pm | Music starts: 8pm
Location: The Traverse Bar, Cambridge Street, Edinburgh