At the reception for the Willow Community Member Spring Showcase at Rodman Hall, amid the speeches and artworks, the politicians and cultural community, an idea that myself and Shauna MacLeod (founder and director of the Willow) discussed became very real. In our conversations, language, with its implications and power, and how you refer to people, or name what they do, was discussed as a starting point for what the Willow does / hopes to do / plans to accomplish. Chatting that same afternoon with Joe Lapinski, he said that the songs and music created by his collaborators was among the best he’d ever been involved with, in a mentoring role.
The musicians / singers who produced Songs From The Willow performed three songs at the Showcase. Despite the event space at Rodman not always being the best for such things, the strength, honesty and quality of the excerpt we were offered, and the manner in which they held my attention – and the room’s – was clear. From “Song for Dolorous” (a feeling or expression of sadness or distress) to “High and Dry”, the performances had some sassy humour and some raw, perhaps darker, emotion.
Experiencing those songs, more than anything, are what have me encouraging readers to come to the reception / concert for the release of Songs from the Willow on the TCO Rooftop at NAC (Niagara Artist Centre). Along with the many shows / events happening at NAC as part of their SOUND + VISION Festival this Summer, NAC often hosts and facilitates groups and events that strengthen and reinforce their place within the community.
Talking to Lapinski, details of how Songs came to be (both regarding the inception of the project, but also how he facilitates the member artists, respecting and honing their energy and ideas with his experience and focus) touched on his long history of working with students. Lapinski has a strong history of high school workshops exploring how to translate what you learn there into making music happen outside of that framework, incorporating both artistic and more business oriented skills. With the recent expansion of an OAC (Ontario Arts Council) grant guideline to include “communities” as well as “schools”, other people and groups fell into place to make Songs from the Willow a reality (NAC providing space, as Rodman does, is one facet, as is Lapinski’s experience and ties to various groups, and MacLeod’s energy and vision). And those were some of the essential components that led to McKell and Jeve, among other singers from the Willow, filling a room with their voices and words.
The PSA: “Songs from the Willow is a six month collaborative music writing project that will result in a full album of music, w/ producer and songwriter Joe Lapinski. Members are involved in every aspect: from lyric writing, to music composing, to album packaging art, to music recording, to organizing an album release party, to social media marketing. All skills and art forms have been explored, making this a very inclusive and accessible series. Workshops take place at Rodman Hall Art Centre and Niagara Artists Centre in St. Catharines.”
Songs from the Willow happens on Saturday, July 28th, with doors opening at 7:30 PM and the show starting at 8 PM. It’s free to any and all who’d like to attend (354 St. Paul Street is NAC’s address and the stairway to The TCO Rooftop Terrace is to the left of the building’s face): CDs and Download Cards will be for sale ($10 and $5 respectively, but you can support this endeavour now). This is one of many events and workshops happening this Summer and into Fall, with the Willow, in a variety of cultural spaces.
Bart Gazzola (also known as #artcriticfromhell) is an arts writer/critic who has published with Magenta Magazine, Canadian Art, New Art Gazette, Galleries West, PrairieSeen, Long Exposure and BlackFlash (where he was Editorial Chair for 3 years). He is Assistant Editor at thesound.rocks and a frequent contributor to various cultural spaces in Niagara.