December 7, 2018 7:00 am

Australian composer’s music inspired by Manitoba’s Arctic

Australian cellist Rob Knaggs.

Sam Thompson / Global News
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Rob Knaggs may hail from the sunny shores of Brisbane, Australia, but his home away from home is in northern Manitoba.

Knaggs, a cellist and composer, has been living in Manitoba on-and-off for the past four years, and while an expiring visa means he’s headed back Down Under, he says the province – especially the town of Churchill and Manitoba’s Arctic – has made a permanent impact on him and his music.

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His farewell show, along with the release of a new EP, takes place Saturday in Winnipeg, but Knaggs says he’s planning on coming back to perform as soon as he can.

“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” Knaggs told 680 CJOB Thursday. “You’re all very lucky to live here.”

“Canada in itself is very beautiful, but Manitoba has just taken my heart.

“Going up to Churchill and seeing the polar bears and just being welcomed into this community has been insane. It’s great.”

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Knaggs wasn’t in Churchill solely as a tourist. He spent much of his time composing music inspired by – and actually performed for – the Arctic wildlife.

“Music-wise, I’ve been going out and playing in a Zodiac boat where I’ve been able to communicate with beluga whales,” he said.

“These belugas came up to the boat, and we dropped a hydrophone in to listen to what the belugas were doing, so I was playing in response. It’s incredible.”

READ MORE: Manitoba’s Arctic science celebrated in new Expedition Churchill campaign

Knaggs said he’s currently talking to a New York zoomusicologist – a scientist who studies music and nature and how they interact – about combining science and art by documenting what’s actually happening with the whales when they hear music.

Although his lush, cinematic, instrumental music may not seem popularly accessible at first, Knaggs has built up a solid following over his time in the province.

The first farewell show he booked sold out in short order, so it has been expanded to two shows Saturday at the Handsome Daughter on Sherbrook Street.

Knaggs will perform two sets, as will Stonewall folk duo Two Crows for Comfort.

It’s billed as a ‘farewell’ gig, but Knaggs said he doesn’t intend to be away from Manitoba for too long.

“Fingers crossed Canada lets me back in, eh?”

WATCH: Town of Churchill welcomes return of rail passengers

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