11-year-old hopes Courage and Love song will ‘bring a light of joy’ to community.
If singer-songwriter Yvon Pion had any doubts about recording a song with schoolchildren in Lac-Mégantic, Que., to mark the 10th anniversary of the explosive train derailment that ripped apart their town, they were erased after one 10-year-old approached him.
“She said to me, ‘Yvon, you know I never liked July the 6th because it’s my birthday, and I was one year old at the time [of the tragedy],'” said Pion.
“I looked her in the eyes and I said, ‘Participating in this project, you may now create something new. Just being here with us and singing.'”
Pion and his partner, Brigitte Savoie, moved to Lac-Mégantic, a town of 6,000 located in the Eastern Townships, in February. He said he was inspired this spring to write a song that could “unify people” and help manage the pain that might accompany commemoration events this summer.
“It’s really important for me that each song that I write becomes a tool for the healing,” said Pion. “After 10 years in Lac-Mégantic, there is still work to do.”
Madison Bell is one of the singers. Like the other Grade 4, 5 and 6 students at Notre-Dame-de-Fatima school who participated in Pion’s project, she’s too young to remember the derailment on July 6, 2013.
She only moved to the town about six years ago. But the Grade 5 student is acutely aware of the significance of the tragedy, attending elementary school a mere kilometre from Frontenac Street, the town’s main street that was decimated.
Madison says she loves the lyrics which talk about overcoming trauma: “We survive thanks to our courage and love.”
LISTEN: Courage et Amour by Yvan Pion
“The song, when it was created, was to send a message to kind of say we’ve been through this; it’s time to look forward to the future,” said Madison.
“It feels like I could really help other people to kind of bring a light of joy in their life.”
The song was released on May 20, and ever since, Madison’s been listening to it on repeat.
“I’m really proud of what I did,” she said. She revelled in the experience of recording in a studio setting for the first time.
“I was shy and nervous. It was really weird. But I think we had a great time.”
Madison’s music teacher, Charles-Antoine Dumas, says his goal was to give his students a unique experience.
Dumas worked with Pion to set up microphones, headphones and audio equipment, and he and the children recorded the song after school and at recess.
“There’s really not a lot of nine-, 10- or 11-year-old children who can [say], ‘I have done a professional recording,'” said Dumas.
“We had very different levels of singers: some sang very well. Some didn’t. But in the end what we expect from them is not to be a good singer, it’s to participate in the event itself.”
Dumas himself was just 16 when the train derailed. He says he hopes this song can help his students’ families work through their grief.
“What I wanted to give them was the opportunity to see what art can be — that it can bring people together,” said Dumas, “and I wanted them to hear their voices this summer when the song is going to be played around Lac-Mégantic.”
“To have children’s voices in this song brings a kind of hope.”
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