NEXUS and “the boat photo”

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NEXUS: John Wyre, Russell Hartenberger, Bill Cahn, Bob Becker, Robin Engelman
Photo by Doug Forster


In 1989 Nexus was chosen to be a recipient of the prestigious Toronto Arts Award. It was an honour that included a cash bursary, as well as a professional photo shoot meant to provide high quality PR material for the group. The Arts Council selected Toronto photographer Doug Forster for the job, and he asked us to meet him at a little-used dock on the shore of lake Ontario. He also requested that we wear full-dress white tie and tails. Of course all of us owned tails for use when playing in symphony orchestras, but we had never worn them for any Nexus concerts, including when we appeared as soloists with orchestras. Some of us had reservations about posing outdoors at the edge of a lake in these outfits, but we went along with the idea.

When we arrived at the site, Doug had us pose standing on the dock for a few shots, and then asked us to board a large row-boat that was waiting nearby. He suggested that Russ Hartenberger and John Wyre each hold an oar, and asked Bill Cahn to use a life-preserver as a prop. I had brought along a pair of cymbals, but Doug handed me a set of binoculars. Robin Engelman took my cymbals onto the boat where we all stood in half an inch of water while drifting slowly out onto the lake. In Doug’s photo we appear to be floating somewhere in a vast body of water, but the boat really was only a few yards from the shore. Nevertheless, our confident demeanor in the picture does not reflect the very real concern we all felt that at any moment we could be overboard and swimming for our lives.

My personal response to seeing Doug’s final print was that the image, although clever, had little to do with percussion music or Nexus concerts. As usual, however, my reaction completely missed the point of PR material, and to my surprise the photo became the one most often chosen by presenters for over a decade. In 1990 the CBC used the photo for the cover of our CD Dance of the Octopus, released on their Musica Viva label.

In 2003 Garry Kvistad replaced John Wyre upon his retirement from Nexus. Soon after the announcement, Garry put on his tails and stepped onto a rowboat floating in the small lake in front of his Woodstock Chimes facility. As much as anything, that confirmed his official membership in the group.


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