Songs for a Lost Pod

Music and lyrics by: Leah Abramson in collaboration with Antoine Bédard, J.J. Ipsen, Andrew Lee, Aidan O’Rourke, Sandro Perri, Arliss Renwick, Marten Timan

Written by: Leah Abramson

Director & Dramaturg: Megan Stewart, with additional dramaturgy from Barbara Adler

Visuals: Mind of a Snail

Narration: Barbara Adler

Produced by: Leah Abramson, Megan Stewart, Joanna Dundas

Band: Meredith Bates (violin), Mark Beaty (cello/bass), Cole Schmidt (guitar), Morgan McDonald (keyboards), Kyle Cashen (drums/ percussion/samples)

Choir: Emily M Cheung, Hilary Ison, Emma Postl, Alex Scott, Emily Millard, Shannon Scott

A co-presentation by Vancouver’s Music on Main and SFU School for the Contemporary Arts.
Two performances only: May 28-29, 2022.

About the show

Songs For a Lost Pod began as singer-songwriter/composer Leah Abramson’s fourth album of original songs, combining scientific research, orca vocalizations turned into beats, and marine mammal history.

Released in November 2017, the album was accompanied by a comic book illustrated by artist Taylor Brown-Evans, to explain the stories and research behind the songs. Told from the perspective of various whale species, the songs explore inter-species communication, intergenerational trauma, and grief for a polluted planet. Songs For a Lost Pod highlights separation—both animal and human—to one another and to the natural world, with the goal of reconnection through musical communication.

Originally written and composed for her Masters of Fine Arts thesis at UBC, Abramson researched in particular the history of the resident orca near Vancouver and its surroundings. From 1965-1973, groups of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest were regularly rounded up and sold to marine parks. Many died during the process of capture or within a few years of living in captivity. The A5 pod, a family of northern resident salmon-eating orca, lost at least three of their family members to capture on December 11, 1969. This capture story lurks behind the lyrics of the song, “Pender Harbour.”

In the largest sense, many of the songs from Songs For a Lost Pod were also written in collaboration with the A5 pod, as musician collaborators such as Andrew Lee (Holy Hum), Sandro Perri, and Aidan O’Rourke (Lau), were given selected A5 pod orca vocalizations, along with Abramson’s other field recordings, to turn into beats and tracks, which formed the backbone of Abramson’s songwriting process, and the rhythms behind much of the music.

Image from Songs for a Lost Pod comic book by Taylor Brown-Evans

In its first iteration, Songs For a Lost Pod had three performances in 2017-18 with a 12-piece musical ensemble and narrator, directed by Leah Abramson. The show’s narrator, writer Barbara Adler, provided details originally included in the comic book, while also adding original writing to tie the songs together thematically.

From these presentations, Abramson rallied a creative team to continue the development of a full-length stage show: director/dramaturg Megan Stewart, producer and musician Joanna Dundas, and visual team Mind of a Snail.

Though the song cycle remains at the heart of the performance, a new narrative script has emerged that juxtaposes the whale histories with Leah’s own family and their experience surviving the Holocaust and its aftermath. Mind of a Snail’s handmade projections create an impressionistic and largely non-representational visual world to support the songs and narration, guiding the audience into a space of contemplation.

Songs for a Lost Pod has been generously supported by Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council, the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts, and PuSh International Performing Arts Festival.