Homeless musicians partner with professional performers for a concert series

The Shelter From the Storm songwriting project began in 2015 as a way to bring Calgary’s homeless citizens together and inspire a sense of community and creativity.

Now in its second season, the Calgary Drop In and Rehab Centre has once again brought together a collection of musicians and buskers from Calgary’s homeless community to put on a series of three concerts on June 22, 24 and 25.

Jordan Hamilton, a spokesperson for the drop-in centre, says the project began as an outlet for some of Calgary’s most vulnerable population to share experiences, stories and a creative passion with one another. Tales of struggles on the street, or moments of profound reflection on how life can quickly spiral out of control inspire many of the songs that will be performed in the concert series.

The Shelter From the Storm project’s website reveals some of these stories, shedding light on how quickly events can take a turn for the worst, for people from all walks of life. The homeless musicians playing in the series range from a young man forced to cut ties with an abusive family, a man who claims to be an ex-federal agent from Mexico who fled to Canada to escape persecution by a drug cartel and many others who were simply dealt an unfair hand in life.

Along with the songs created by Calgary’s homeless musicians, local singer-songwriters such as Christian Hudson and Kris Demeanor will be taking the stage to share own stories of personal struggles and help bolster the musical talent at the performance, as well as in the studio.

A full-length album with 10 tracks was put together from the songs created during the 2015 Shelter From the Storm series.

The recording, titled Verses VS Homelessness, features a track from local street musician Perry Wilson, Hudson and a collaboration between Max Ciesielski and Demeanor, among others.

Hudson and Jordan Williams collaborated to write and record “Wake Up” as a single for the album. Hudson is an Airdrie born singer-songwriter who rose to public fanfare after winning the 2015 Calgary Stampede Talent Search and then donated the $10,000 prize to the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

Young Airdrie musician Christian Hudson paired up with Jordan Williams to record the track “Wake Up” on the Verses VS Homelessness album. The pair come from very different backgrounds to combine their experiences, creating a powerful song about the fine line separating anyone from a comfortable life to one on the street. Photo courtesy of Jordan Hamilton / Calgary Drop-In Centre Hudson, who grew up in a comfortable middle-class home, and Williams, who was raised in foster care and on the streets, combined their vastly different experiences to create a piece of music that showcases the thin line separating even the most fortunate of us from a life on the street.

“Jordan’s a great guy to work with,” says Hudson. “He’s smart and kind and never let his past troubles ruin his character. I am pretty excited about the song and the album.”

“This isn’t the first time people have come together to write music,” says Michael Frisby, creative producer of Shelter From the Storm. “It’s common to all our families, it’s universal, and it’s a great way to bring people from very different backgrounds and experiences together.”

Jordan Hamilton, spokesperson for the Calgary Drop-In Centre, says “the hope is to bring the broader community together and break down barriers.”

A live debut of the Verses VS Homelessness album is set for the evening of June 22. An outdoor concert, open to the public, will be held at Tompkins Park at 6pm, located at Eighth Street, S.W., and 17th Avenue, S.W. Alongside local musicians and members of the Drop-In Centre, eight members of the Calgary Civic Symphony will accompany the performance to add another level of musical depth to each song.

Listeners can also catch a performance of the Shelter From the Storm project as a part of the 2016 Sled Island festival. On June 24 and June 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. the John Dutton Theatre (located in the Calgary Central Library) will be filled with the heartfelt music produced by residents of the Drop-In Centre, volunteers and local musicians hoping to shed light on an important issue.

“These concerts are going to move people,” says Hudson. “Some people are going to cry. Some people are going to dance. I am pretty excited”

Thumbnail image courtesy of Jordan Hamilton / Calgary Drop-In and Rehab Centre 

jbrak@cjournal.ca