Musician Bessie Wapp was honoured Monday night as Nelson’s 2015 cultural ambassador.
In making the announcement during city council’s inaugural meeting, cultural development officer Joy Barrett called Wapp a “prodigious talent and proud Nelsonite who will be a wonderful representative of the city.” She said Wapp is “extremely active” in Nelson’s arts scene as a singer, actor, director, artist and teacher.
Her jazz band, Bessie and the Back Eddies, was such a hit at this year’s Vancouver International Jazz Festival that they’ve been asked to return in 2015.
She also performs with the Balkan brass band, the Oxygen Orkestar, and as a guest vocalist with Clinton Swanson and friends. Her upcoming projects include a tour of This Little Piggy, a folk opera created in collaboration with Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a Black Productions/Selkirk College music program production which premieres in Nelson in February.
Although Wapp wasn’t able to be at Monday’s announcement, she provided a video acceptance speech, in which she called the appointment “a very great honour.”
“As artists we hope the pleasure and meaning we experience through our artistic activity is valued by the larger community,” she said. “The fact the City of Nelson chooses a cultural ambassador each year is to me a fantastic way to celebrate and highlight the work of artists.”
Wapp said Nelson has a “wealth of skilled and talented musicians” and suggested she was chosen from “what must have been a very long list of worthy candidates.” She acknowledged her fellow players as well as “listeners, dancers, promoters, presenters, and supporters.”
She also offered a wish that 2015 be full of “melody, rhythm, harmony, peace and joy for all of Nelson” and that the community’s support for the arts set an example “that cultivating creative expression results in mysterious, mind-expanding, heart-opening, life-affirming magical mojo.”
Wapp sang a Yiddish song that she said “hints at the way music feeds my soul.”
The Cultural Development Committee established the ambassador honour to recognize artists and groups who have “achieved a high standard of excellence in their discipline” and who are active outside Nelson. Chair Stephanie Fischer said the ambassador is expected to represent and promote the city on their travels, increasing the visibility and cultural reputation of Nelson. It comes with a $1,000 honorarium.
Each year the ambassador is chosen from a different discipline — this time a musician was sought. Past ambassadors have included author Anne DeGrace, fibre artist Angelika Werth, comedian/actor Lucas Myers, the Corazon youth choir, dancer Hiramoto Ida and filmmaker Amy Bohigian.