The musicians in the London Arts Council’s successful Belong To Song (BTS) program now find themselves in Good Company.
Members of the council’s London Artist in Residence program, the Belong To Song artists are community musicians with lived experience of mental illness. The 11 members of the program have been mentored by professional musicians and BTS facilitators Catherine McInnes and Jake Levesque, providing them with the support to write, rehearse, arrange and record songs.
The result of their efforts was a recently released debt CD, Good Company. Ontario Arts Council’s Artists In Education Projects Grant predominantly funded the project.
The songs were recorded over the fall of 2016 at The Shack, a local recording studio operated by Simon Larochette. The result is a “100 percent Made In London” compilation of 11 stylistically diverse songs performed by the singer-songwriters and other BTS musicians.
“This recording project, along with everything about Belong To song, is a labour of love,” McInnes said. “The dedication, musicianship and stories of recovery of everyone involved are incredibly moving and inspiring. Be sure to have a box of Kleenex handy when you listen to the CD.”
The CD is named after the final track on the album, Good Company, by Larry Lund.
The album title also, according to McInnes, unanimously reflects the collective’s feeling about the program.
This is Belong To Song’s first professional recording. CDs were available for purchased for $10 at a launch event held Feb. 27 at Innovation Works. They can also be purchased by contacting McInnes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belong To Song is now in its seventh year.
A year ago it became a program of the London Arts Council where each week, 20-25 people with lived experience of mental illness attend the weekly drop in music jam on Thursday afternoons on the third floor of My Sisters’ Place.
The program uses a model of co-facilitation where a peer facilitator works with a professional musician each week. Participants can sing, play an instrument or just come to listen and socialize.
Others attend Tuesday afternoon songwriting sessions, learning about various aspects of songwriting and performance, collaborating and supporting each member’s ideas for songs in progress.
Belong To Song also provides many opportunities throughout the year to perform at community events.
Beyond the opportunity to develop their musicianship, McInnes said the program provides a strong and organic peer-based support system. The relationships formed between many of the core participants, she adds, have had a significant impact on their quality of life.