Face to Face: Rosemarie Hurst
Sometimes even the worst experiences in life can result in golden opportunities and silver linings.
For local artist Rosemarie Hurst, the two months she spent in hospital after suffering a stroke and a brain aneurysm in 2009 allowed her to save enough money to record an album of ballads, set to the words of famed First Nations poet, E. Pauline Johnson, entitled Faithfully Yours.
With 2013 the 100th anniversary of Johnson’s death, Hurst has been asked to perform her music by the museum dedicated to preserving and sharing Johnson’s legacy, the Chiefswood National Historic Site in Ohsweken, Ontario.
“It’s an honour,” Hurst says to have the chance to perform her work at Chiefswood this summer. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Hurst grew up in Ontario, and remembers visiting Chiefswood, Johnson’s home and birthplace, when she was a teenager. She says she was inspired by Johnson’s story as much as her work.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Johnson travelled across Canada dozens of times performing her poetry live. Johnson, who’s mother was English and father was Mohawk, would perform her poems initially dressed in traditional English garb, before donning buckskin in celebration of her First Nations heritage.
“She was a courageous woman to do that at that time,” says Hurst. “It might be considered performance art today.”
Hurst says Johnson’s poems, such as The Song My Paddle Sings, both inspired and empowered her as a young artist when she was in her late teens.
“Her writing was so romantic,” she says. “I was hooked.”
Writing music for the Johnson’s work wasn’t easy, however. Johnson’s poems don’t follow a traditional song structure, so there isn’t a chorus to work with.
Through the process of writing and recording the album, however, Hurst believes the music helped her recover from the stroke and aneurysm she suffered.
“[Music] helps the brain rewire itself after it’s been damaged,” she says. Music therapy is an increasingly common treatment for neurological disorders.
Hurst was lucky enough to avoid any serious physical repercussions, and last year was presented with the Phyllis Delaney Life After Stroke Award, by Stroke Recovery B.C.
• Rosemarie Hurst’s album, Faithfully Yours is available on iTunes.