Montreal pianist performs under Yellowknife northern lights

A pianist from Montreal is putting the finishing touches on an album of music recorded under the northern lights outside Yellowknife.
Pianist Roman Zavada has been playing his piano under the glow of the northern lights outside Yellowknife. (Sylvain Humbert photo)

A pianist from Montreal is putting the finishing touches on an album in which he plays the piano under the northern lights outside Yellowknife.

The idea came to composer Roman Zavada in Montreal two years ago: to play the piano under the inspiring glow of the aurora borealis.

"I was looking at the sky and thought, 'that would be a good idea, the northern lights,'" he said. "I've never seen them before."

Today, Zavada has just finished making his dream a reality. He had a piano hauled over the rocks on the shores of Prelude Lake just outside Yellowknife recently. Every night since then, he's created music while the Northern Lights dance overhead.

Instead of playing a composed piece, Zavada improvised his performances. Every ripple of the aurora borealis inspired a new note, a new chord. 

Zavada is logging each chord, each new composition, and taking them back to Montreal where he'll finish his northern lights album, for release next spring.

This is one of the best years in recent memory to see the northern lights. But sometimes the weather gets in the way of the show.

"I was kind of scared because I saw the predictions for the next days — all clouds," Zavada says. "But all of a sudden last Friday, it just cleared up and we had a really nice three nights in a row. So we were very lucky."

Prior to last week, Zavada had never even seen the northern lights, much less played under them.

"[It was] very magical, very almost spiritual," Zavada said of the experience. "There's a special feeling I [can't] put into words."


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