Peace song strikes discord

Celia McBride doesn't know why people don't like her Olympic song. "The irony is that the piece is called Live in Peace, and people want to start a war over it," said McBride...

Celia McBride doesn’t know why people don’t like her Olympic song.

“The irony is that the piece is called Live in Peace, and people want to start a war over it,” said McBride, who co-wrote the jingle as part of the Yukon’s cultural envoy to the Vancouver Olympics.

McBride is getting flak for hiring a Toronto composer to help her co-write the song instead of drawing from local songwriting talent.

“I’m really sorry for people that want to look at that aspect of it instead of the creative integrity that we’ve all put into the work,” she said.

“This whole show is really a love letter to the Yukon – anybody out there that’s pissed off at us, I want them to know that this is for them.”

The outsourcing has created a buzz in the Yukon arts community over a song that tries to capture the essence of the Yukon.

“My question to those people is what makes a Yukoner?” said McBride.

The song itself is a little lackluster.

“Live in peace.

“Find your place and you will know that you are free.”

That’s the bulk of the lyrics, played to the sounds of finger snapping and a simple piano.

The Queen-inspired breakout provides the only bridge, with lyrics like, “I want to let it all out.

“I want to let it all go.

“And find out who I can be.”

The song is not Yukon-specific, either in musical or lyrical form. There are no dog teams, no mountains, no rivers, no fiddles and no fireweed.

The bland, commercial-like tune could really be a song about anywhere.

McBride hired Bryce Kulak, who lives in Toronto, to compose the song and co-write the lyrics partly because of their previous work together.

“He fell in love with this place when he came up, and he’s now been back a couple of times,” said McBride. “I’m from here and we worked together to create something that speaks to what it means to live here.”

Using Yukon government grant money, McBride travelled to Toronto and Kulak was flown up to Whitehorse.

McBride got a $170,000 to create a half-hour Yukon showcase that will be presented several times over the course of the Olympics.

The show is split between video segments and performance pieces. The song is the show’s grande finale.

McBride also flew New York choreographer Lisa Stephens to Whitehorse on two different occasions to work on the showcase’s dance performance.

They had previously worked together on the National Artist Program for the Canada Winter Games.

McBride’s decision to hire expensive Outside artists was directed by her intuition.

“Part of my creative process is working with my intuition,” she said. “When I was meditating on who to work with on this song, Bryce just kept coming to the forefront and I have learned not to question that.

“It’s my creative process and if people have problems with that, come and talk to me about it,” she said.

“It’s not about not choosing Yukoners, it’s about working with my intuition and following that – following that divine lead.”

That’s a little problematic when the show isn’t mandated as one artist’s show, but rather a performance meant to speak on behalf of all Yukoners.

But McBride said part of the grant was meant to be spent on Outside talent.

“I had a budget line to work with Outside artists,” she said. “It’s called artist residency.”

That’s not true, said Laurel Parry, the arts manager at the Yukon’s Tourism and Culture Department.

“I don’t think it had to be spent on Outside artists,” said Parry.

“That’s probably (McBride’s) choice.”

Parry approved of the decision to hire Outside instead of local because it’s McBride’s prerogative.

“Whatever she needs to get the job done,” she said.

The money was funneled from the department to the Yukon Arts Centre and then to McBride’s production, said Parry.

Some artists are supportive of McBride’s choice for Outside talent.

“People work with who they’re comfortable with,” said Whitehorse composer Bob Hamilton. “And that person might live in Timbuktu; they might live in the Yukon.

“In defence of it, I would say that Celia’s working with who she’s comfortable with.”

Each province and territory has one night to perform its show before a medal ceremony at the Olympics, highlighting their region.

McBride choose to do a Rick Mercer Report spoof with Yukoners being interviewed as they try to think of the quintessential word to describe the territory. Interviewees include the hip hop dance group Groundwork Sessions, DJ Daniel Ashley, Grandma Susie and Cashcreek Charlie, and francophone band Soir de Semaine.

The videos will be interspersed with live dance and music productions. It will be topped off with the Yukon anthem, which was recorded with 14 different artists.

“We did a ‘We are the world’ kind of thing,” said McBride.

McBride’s show will also be performed twice at an Olympic live site, where spectators can watch live sports events on big screens.

One Word will be previewed at the Yukon Arts Centre on Januray 16 at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

“I trust my creative process and the song is beautiful and it’s brilliant and it’s a gift,” said McBride. “It’s a gift to Yukoners and it’s a gift to all of us who worked on it and I would like to present that gift to everyone and I ask them to receive it with love.”

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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