Turning it around with song

The song begins in a stark minor key. "Somebody's fighting, somebody's crying, somebody hurts, somebody's dying." But then the chorus shifts into positive major chords and the children singing double their efforts.

The song begins in a stark minor key.

“Somebody’s fighting, somebody’s crying, somebody hurts, somebody’s dying.”

But then the chorus shifts into positive major chords and the children singing double their efforts.

“Bad things happen. Turn it around. Sun’s going to shine in this town.”

This song was written by a Grade 3 class at Mushuau Innu School in Natuashish, Labrador.

You can check it out on YouTube.

While it isn’t the latest internet sensation, it is a catchy tune, and pretty remarkable considering the troubles the community faces.

Carol Teal, a well-known folk musician from Newmarket, Ontario, is accompanying on guitar.

Teal is a member of ArtsCan Circle an independent, volunteer-run group working to link artists with at-risk indigenous youth across Canada.

She held a songwriting workshop and that song about hope for the future, Turn it Around, is what the kids came up with.

“They face a lot of challenges,” said Teal.

“They’re looking to find solutions for themselves.”

Teal is in town for a speech language pathology conference, a job she does on the side when not playing music or volunteering.

While in town, she will also be holding a benefit concert for ArtsCan Circle.

The group was founded by harmonica player Mike Stevens, who first visited northern communities 10 years ago.

He was en route to Bosnia with a group of rock stars to play for the Canadian peacekeepers stationed there.

Their plane stopped to refuel in Goose Bay, Labrador, and the group played a show.

Stevens found an Innu community struggling with a high suicide rate and kids with nothing better to do but sniff gas.

He wanted to do something to help and found that the only way he could connect with the children was through his music.

He promised to send the kids harmonicas.

But he did much more than that.

CBC captured some footage of Stevens playing for one particular group of gasoline sniffers and by the time he got back from Bosnia he was being inundated with e-mails and calls from people that wanted to help.

He asked that they donate any unused instruments and ended up with a transport full.

But some musicians wanted to donate more than just their old instruments.

Teal was one of those musicians, and when Stephens established ArtsCan Circle she was eager to join, becoming the volunteer secretary for a number of years.

ArtsCan Circle has recently received a Trillium Foundation grant of $397,000 to visit more communities in Northern Ontario.

So far the group has stuck to Labrador, Northern Ontario and a few communities in Nunavut.

They don’t want to spread themselves too thin.

“We try to go back at least once or twice a year to really develop a relationship with the communities,” she said.

“The kids know us now and look forward to us coming back. They don’t want someone to show up to help and then just never come back again. They get enough of that already.”

The group would love to expand throughout the Canadian North, said Teal.

But it all depends on funding and could never be at the expense of the communities the group already visits.

Five years ago, Teal went with Stevens and a number of other music and visual artists to her first community, Pikangikum in Northwestern Ontario.

It was a fly-in community of about 2,400 people but lots of kids. There were 650 children at the local high school.

Since that first visit, Teal has seen a lot of positive change.

The school now has its own music teacher and they have a guitar club, with 30 or 40 members.

There are more garage bands that are playing and kids are now willing to get up and perform in front of their peers.

Kids are also writing their own music.

At a community talent night when Teal was last in Pikangikum, there was a pretty rocking four-piece band and young guy soloing on his guitar.

“He was really good,” she said.

“Some of my colleagues and I were taking notes.”

Carol and her husband/musical partner David Joyce will be playing at Eagles Landing B&B at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

Yukoners Kevin Barr and Steve Slade will also be on the bill.

The benefit concert has a suggested donation price of $15.

If it’s a nice day, the concert will take place outdoors, using a stage on Crag Lake.

For more information or to donate to the group, visit their website at www.artscancircle.ca

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com