Happiness can exist only in acceptance – George Orwell
On February 13, 2016 the Dawson Creek Choral Society hosted a concert in partnership with the Dawson Creek Literacy Society as part of the Organizing Against Racism and Hate initiative through Embrace BC. The concert, held at Unchagah Hall, brought together many different community performers representing diversity not only of style and aesthetic but also of cultural background. The concert was headlined by Edmonton’s High Street Sound who hosted a choral workshop earlier the same day, and there were approximately 300 people attending in the audience.
This concert event could not have been put together without the financial contributions of the Encana Corporation, the Dawson Creek Literacy Society, and the SOCAN Foundation.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Theresa Gladue, who is Aboriginal Student Advisor at Northern Lights College and a strong voice for reconciliation and promotion of First Nations culture in Dawson Creek and surrounding region. Her group, the Northern Lights Drummers, welcomed the audience with the traditional welcome song in Cree (sung four times to represent the four directions), followed by a healing song.
High Street Sound then took the stage with their first set. They are a six-piece a cappella vocal group who formed in 2011 out of a love for groove, harmony, and weird sound effects. Their original style of blending contemporary pop and jazz through their six unique vocal approaches left the audience captivated and wanting to hear more. Their ability to create a rich and vibrant sound through six different voices, singing about acceptance of self and others and overcoming adversity, created a powerful image of our nation’s multicultural mosaic.
The community portion of the concert began with bellydancing trio Troupe Shalize who performed three numbers, “Arabian Nights,” “Solo Galamat,” and “Albia Ho’o” – showcasing soundscapes and movements inspired by South Asian aesthetics.
They were followed by our Children’s Chorus who sang “Let Your Voice Be Heard,” and unpublished unison song by Canadian composer Matthew Emery. The song’s lyrics (written by John Nielson) encourage the celebration of free speech and confidence to speak through difficult situations. They were then joined by our Youth Choir to sing Mac Huff’s SSA arrangement of John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Their young voices singing a dream for a better world–one where we can all live as one without greed, judgment, and possession–was a powerful testament to the resiliency not only of Lennon’s music but also of the human imagination.
Local songwriter Wayne Ezeard then took the stage with his own composition, “Wayfarers,” a song about the struggles of early European immigrants to Canada. He connected our nation’s European ancestry to contemporary issues faced by immigrants and war-time refugees. Notable, a young vocal quartet directed by Steven Overholt (who also directs the South Peace Community Choir in Bay Tree, AB), performed Larry Nickel’s arrangement of Jan Garrett’s “I Dreamed of Rain,” a song about the raging fires and droughts in the United States in 2002 considered in direct relation to the flames spreading across the world with the American invasion on Iraq. The lyrics comment on how we have no reason to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors and, in Garrett’s own words, “we are free to forgive, release the pain, and start over again with a clean slate” through “the kind of luscious healing rain that comes to renew the natural world and the human soul after a long drought.”
The DCCS Youth Choir then returned to the stage to perform the 1986 anti-bullying anthem, “True Colors.” The song was recently re-released in Canada by Artists Against Bullying, responding to the troubling increase in teen bullying and cyber bullying that faces our contemporary social landscape. The youth choir was then joined by our Community Singers Mixed Choir, along with the members of High Street Sound, to perform Canadian composer (and High Street Sound baritone) Bryan LeGrow’s arrangement of Dan Heymann’s anthem, “Weeping.” The song was written in 1987 as a direct response to Heymann’s unwilling draft to the South African army at the height of apartheid and cultural genocide. The lyrics speak to the pain that is suffered through segregation and racism, that the sounds heard are not a violent enemy roaring and waging war, but an entire people weeping behind walls, smoke, and flame.
The Community Singers then performed George Weiss and Bob Thiele’s “What a Wonderful World” (arranged by Mark Brymer). This song was released by Louis Armstrong in 1967 at the height of the raging Civil Rights Movement in the United States, and featured in the movie Good Morning, Vietnam as a statement of the times. It is a hopeful and optimistic antidote to the troubled political and racial climate of the 1960s, and speaks to the beauty of the world and hope that our children will know an even more beautiful lifetime in their futures.
The concert ended with another set from High Street Sound, who left Unchagah Hall buzzing and optimistic for our community’s involvement in a strong stance against racism and xenophobia.
Thank you to all who participated in this event, including MC Theresa Gladue, the Rotary Interact Club who ushered and took tickets, Network Ministries who had an information booth on their community outreach programs, the Dawson Creek Literacy Society, the Nawican Friendship Centre, the technicians and administration at Unchagah Hall, all performers, sponsors, and of course our audience members.
View our official concert program that has been updated since the event for accuracy of information and addition of the SOCAN Foundation as a post-event sponsor.