Jann Arden and an orchestra bring Secrets of Whales to the Jack Singer 

Three years of filming, 24 global locations, hundreds of whales including humpbacks, belugas, narwhals, orcas and sperm whales, and the world-renowned expertise of explorer and photographer Brian Skerry and Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Cameron have all gone into making the National Geographic series, Secrets of Whales.

And on April 22, Earth Day, and the days adjacent, the film series concert adaptation will make its world premiere in Calgary.

Clips of the four-part Disney+ series will be presented in condensed form accompanied by a 40-piece live orchestra led by Anthony Parnther, musical director of the San Bernadino Symphony Orchestra. And to make this lovely mosaic of art, science, story and music more magical and cohesive, Jann Arden will provide live narration for the film.

“This show is very different from our usual National Geographic Live presentations,” says Sarah Garton Stanley (SGS), vice president of programming at Arts Commons. “We have a live orchestra playing along with this incredible set of visuals, Secrets of the Whales, in a gorgeous visual language. To have a live orchestra accompanying this incredible visual series … is just a full embodied, enjoyable experience. And then to have Jann Ardan narrating the experience, to have that voice, this beautiful, famous voice speaking to us in real time – there’s just something so whole about it. It changes the experience.”

Sigourney Weaver narrated the original series, so the choice of Arden, another strong, outspoken woman who is passionate about animals, seems like a natural fit.

“We approached Jann Arden to do the narration because she’s a Calgarian, she’s an Albertan and she’s somebody that we love for the series,” says SGS. “The original narrator was Sigourney Weaver and it would be weird to say that they’re the same and yet they are both such incredibly powerful women who have made a real impact in each of their professional realms. They both stand as icons of success and position and perspective. Both Sigourney Weaver and Jann Arden have never shied away from their opinions and ideas about certain things so to be able to do this premier with someone of Jann Arden’s stature on Canadian soil, with a James Cameron production — another one of Canada’s own — there’s just something really exciting to think about the voice of Jann Arden being the first voice to bring this to audiences in Canada.”

The footage itself highlights parallels between whales and humans as whales make friends, share traditions, play, and grieve for their lost family members, just like we do.

Parnther, the conductor, has appeared internationally in London, Los Angeles, Budapest and beyond scoring stages. He is also a conducor, orchestrator and bassoonist for the Hollywood Studio Symphony, recording sessions for many
of the world’s top movies, television series and video games.

“To be the first out of the gates to share with our audiences this incredible combination of film, orchestra and the narration by Jann Arden is such a gift,” says SGS. “It’s so exciting because it has that feeling of live theatre …. It starts and it unravels, we hope it inserts a kind of glorious perfection, but at the same time you’ve got 40 plus musicians and a beautiful conductor with Anthony Parnther there along with Jann Arden doing the narrations. [There are] a lot of things that have to go up together in harmony, and so to be the first to bring that to life, it’s an incredible gift for us and the audience.”

Secrets of Whales runs April 21, 22 and 23 in the Jack Singer Concert Hall at Arts Commons. For more information, visit artscommons.ca/whats-on/secrets-of-the-whales