In the early 2000 I was part of a project where an non-profit working with the Canadian Mental Health Association was giving workshops for people dealing with issues or conditions of mental health, from mild to severe.
The workshops ranged from crafts, songwriting, theatre productions from start to finish, encouraging the participation of anyone interested and coaching them along the way.
I arrived during the songwriting season, and started being involved with the music side of things, creating the arrangements for many of the songs. We ended up creating a whole CD of songs and poems written - and performed - by the participants, premiering it as an evening of live entertainment. We had a blast!
Some of the songs were playful, others filled with pain, all were personal and raw. One of the songs that struck me the most was a poem written by Robert, a man who had been hospitalized in a psychiatric ward on and off over the years, due to schizophrenia.
There, he had a spiritual encounter, experience, visitation, I don't know how to call it and I didn't ask for details. But somehow, he found a path to free his spirit in the midst of an environment where he was totally dependent, his daily life being ordained for him by the hospital rules and medical treatment protocols.
What did he discover? In this short "conversation with God" about his own life and hopes, he reveals with gratitude the transcendent freedom he experienced is worth more than anything he could hope for in this world
The hospital staff were so moved and inspired by what he wrote, I was told, they had the poem painted on one of the inner walls of the hospital.
The song is called Believe. I shared it a couple times over the years, but this year I received a copy of all the songs in CD quality and it makes a bit of difference.
The voice you hear is Robert's voice... the music is mine, improvised as I listened to him, mining the depth of the human experience together to convey the flight of the human spirit.
I long to identify with much of the profound simplicity of the sentiment expressed in his poem, challenged to lock gaze with a reality beyond the promises of this one. I'm also aware that path he was on was anything but simple.
May it move you like it moves me...
released December 7, 2020
Words - © Robert Walsh
Music - © André Lefebvre
all rights reserved