I was 22 years old when I decided to move from the suburbs of Toronto to make a life for myself on a 90 acre patch of rural Ontario. That’s me a long time ago installing the main electrical cables into the house I built. At the time my move to the country was powered by specific hopes and dreams. I quickly found the space, the beauty, the freedom and the opportunities I’d hoped for. Manitoulin Island is rich in all these things and I’m thankful to be here. But I also found something else, too.
Without knowing it at the time, my move to rural Canada also made me part of a community. I’ve been living on the Island long enough that I’ve seen the flow of one generation slowly disappearing, taking their place in history, while another generation has been born, grown up and now lives, serves and loves the same place I do. I’ve also noticed something else I hadn’t expected. The smaller the community you live in, the larger the number of people you’ll know and be known by. An evening concert I attended this past November reminded me of that.
I don’t know if all of rural Canada has a thriving musical spirit, but Manitoulin Island certainly does. And most of this rural music scene has nothing to do with money. It’s not unusual for groups of ordinary people to come together for months on end, practicing diligently after dinner and on weekends for events that aim to do nothing more than delight the community. Sure, there might be a small admission charge at the door, but that’s just to buy sheet music for the next time great live music can be heard from people who simply love to sing.
I wish you could have been with me for this recent concert. Looking at the stage and listening to the 30 people sing songs that thrill the heart was one thing. Knowing the names, the lives, the family connections and the personal histories of most of those people made the experience all the richer. Beauty, generosity, friendliness, family connections and great music delivered by people who love to sing and do it well – I’m thankful to live in a place where this sort of thing still happens. The world is full of places like these, if you know where to look.
The video clip below doesn’t to justice to that small town concert night in November. But just the same, I hope it gives you at least a little sense of what it’s like when people come together to sing and to listen in an old fashioned sort of way. Click below to see for yourself.