Andrew Sisk will perform a special tribute to the work of Alden Nowlan as part of the tenth anniversary Shivering Songs Festival.
Andrew Sisk has performed at quite a few Shivering Songs’ festival events over the years. Whether he’s hosting a songwriter’s circle, performing in a one-off reunion of a past band or playing music from his several solo releases, for many of us, Sisk, his songs and his humour have become as integral to the Shivering Songs experience as sitting in the pews at Wilmot United Church, dodging excited children running between tables at the Bluegrass Brunch or simply feeling the cold bite of winter against our faces as we move from venue to venue.
As part of the 2020 edition of the festival, Sisk will finally realize a project he has been dreaming about for nearly as long as he has been playing music: a tribute to one of New Brunswick’s prolific and timeless voices – Alden Nowlan.
“I have wanted to do an Alden Nowlan project for 20 years now,” said Sisk. “I’ve tried a few times to come up with something that would accomplish my goal of helping people access his work. This performance will be the most minimal and direct and simple version of that.”
For Sisk, the significance of this event goes deep. His relationship with Nowlan’s work has bordered on obsession with many years spent seeking out copies of his many poetry books and other collections of writing.
“My Nowlan collection is pretty comprehensive, not to brag,” he said.
On an even more meaningful and personal level, Sisk remembers the exact circumstances that led him to discovering Nowlan’s work, an encounter that would not have happened if he had not become good friends with Shivering Songs co-founder Nick Cobham, long before the festival was ever thought of.
“My bandmate and old friend, Nick Cobham, had a copy of Between Tears and Laughter when we were roommates and I remember reading it all in one sitting and instantly feeling my mind completely change,“ said Sisk. “His poems were these little documents of wisdom and beauty printed in plain language. I had never felt a connection to any poet before. I already knew him from reading and studying The Bull Moose in high school but I didn’t understand it at the time.”
Sisk credits Nowlan’s work for influencing his songwriting as much as that of any songwriter.
“There is this humble perspective he takes so often that it made me want to look out at life through those poet eyes and try to find small unassuming situations that somehow reveal humanity,” he said.
“My hope [with this performance] is to bridge a gap between Nowlan’s work and the audience,” said Sisk. “I will be reading, performing, and sharing some stories so that it’s entertaining but soulful, charming but deep.”