L-R: Singers Amanda Creak, Kelly Vrugteveen, Sapphire Guthrie, Mélodie Giguère, Aliza Jones, and Rebecca Neudorf. They took part in a year-long process about Truth and Reconciliation that has resulted in the filmed musical pilgrimage Back to the Stars, directed by Allison Girvan. Photo: Video screenshot from Back to the Stars

L-R: Singers Amanda Creak, Kelly Vrugteveen, Sapphire Guthrie, Mélodie Giguère, Aliza Jones, and Rebecca Neudorf. They took part in a year-long process about Truth and Reconciliation that has resulted in the filmed musical pilgrimage Back to the Stars, directed by Allison Girvan. Photo: Video screenshot from Back to the Stars

Feeling mycelial: Nelson youth music workshop creates a network of songs

Director Allison Girvan’s project Back to the Stars is inspired by reflections on Indigenous history

Last year, Kelly Vrugteveen composed the first few lines of a poem on the back of a receipt while bagging groceries at her supermarket job.

Her reading of that poem, with a backdrop of snow falling in darkness, opens the film Back to the Stars, available on the Capitol Theatre website free starting May 7.

The poem asks what if she had been born into different circumstances – taller, richer, with different parents, with a different body, and so on.

What if I’d been born into different coloured skin?

Would people hate me for things I can’t control?

Would I be happy now? Would I be angry now? Would I be alive now?

Following Vrugteveen’s poem, the film takes us to a West Kootenay forest with Sapphire Guthrie walking slowly, tying red ribbons to trees, singing her song “Missing Lady in Red.”

Six young Nelson women – Guthrie and Vrugteveen along with Rebecca Neudorf, Mélodie Giguère, Amanda Creak and Aliza Jones – created and performed the songs and poems that make up Back to the Stars. They were mentored and directed by Allison Girvan, and the project was managed by Isabelle Herzig.

Their weekly meetings over the past year were at first in person, and then later on Zoom.

The goal was to explore Truth and Reconciliation, and a restoration of Indigenous teachings, through readings, discussions, and journaling, with the help of Indigenous Elder Donna Wright and cultural advisor Ann-Marie Smith.

Girvan says this subject matter may not be initially obvious in the film, which communicates by metaphor, not through a linear narrative.

“I think that (viewers will) get that arc even though it’s a subtle thing. It is not done in a way that’s hitting the nail on the head. It’s all very gently laid out.”

Early in the process, Smith and Wright gave the group a drum-making workshop, which Girvan says set the tone for what was to come.

Vrugteveen says while making her drum she was at the same table as Wright, and she discovered the two have some similar character traits.

“I’m one that really likes to laugh and make jokes and make other people laugh, and she is kind of the same type,” Vrugteveen says. “My drum is embedded with so much humour. And every time I play it, I just hear the laughs come out of it that we shared together.”

The centrepiece song in Back to the Stars is Guthrie’s “I Feel Mycelial,” the only song sung together by all six.

“Allison read us an article about the old growth forest,” Guthrie says, “and the mycelial (fungal) networks all throughout it, and the connection of the forest through these networks in the earth.”

She adds that while writing the song she was watching Star Trek: Discovery, in which mycelial networks play a big part.

In addition to being an artistic and cultural exploration, the project also turned out to be an effective way of getting through the pandemic.

“On any given week, some of the young women were feeling OK, and some were not,” says Girvan. “And quite frankly, the same with the adults who were in on those Zoom calls. That helped to illustrate just how much we need each other, how much we need community.”

She says the young women learned that to function in a group we each don’t need to be at the top of our game all the time.

“If we’re not able to fully bring our best selves, we can just show up for each other. We can prop each other up, which is an incredible thing to realize.”

Rebecca Neudorf, who sings her song “Gifts You Bring” while the camera hovers above and follows a mountain stream in winter, says the group has helped her get through the pandemic.

“It lightened the whole thing, and also gave me something to look forward to, and a place where I could also be honest about how I was doing, and not worry about it affecting someone else – being true to who I am.”

Back to the Stars was filmed by Rio Mitchell and Danny Cox of BackBeyond, with additional music composed and played by Don Macdonald with background vocals by Girvan.

“Don’s music just it added so much,” Aliza Jones says. “Some of it was just so quiet you barely could hear it. But it just brought so much to it.”

Girvan points out that she, the singers, and Donna Wright are in three different generations, and each generation was inspired by the other two.

“It was a mutual and constantly refreshing reminder of how it doesn’t matter who you are, you can inspire somebody else. And it doesn’t matter how broken you feel. What you’re doing in order to address that can be hugely inspirational to somebody else.”

Back to the Stars was sponsored by VIDEA (Victoria International Development Education Association) and was funded by Canada Service Corps.



bill.metcalfe@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

A Canadian Pacific train derailed near Nelson on Tuesday evening. Photo: Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press
Canadian Pacific freight train derails near Nelson

There were no injuries or spills related to the incident

Brenda Ware. (RCMP)
Murder charge laid against man in Kootenay National Park homicide

Philip Toner was located in Lake Country on May 11

The Salmo Public Library’s director Taylor Caron with her award. Photo: Submitted
Salmo Public Library director wins provincial award

Taylor Caron has been recognized by her peers for innovation and advocacy

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

We, the olds, talk about the kids this week.
VIDEO: Wednesday Roundup

Tyler Harper and Bill Metcalfe talk about some amazing kids this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, April 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 rate creeps up again, 600 new cases Wednesday

One more death, 423 people in hospital with virus

B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham takes questions in the B.C. legislature in 2017. (Hansard TV)
UPDATE: B.C. will fund another year of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk in schools

John Horgan government working on school meal program

Surrey RCMP is releasing sketches of a suspect in an “indecent act” at the Coyote Creek Elementary playground on April 30, 2021. Police said the suspect was clean-shaven “during some interactions” and on “other occasions had stubble outlining a goatee and mustache.” (Images: Surrey RCMP handout)
Vancouver mayor-elect Kennedy Stewart addresses supporters in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver mayor says there’s no time to redo details of drug decriminalization plan

Kennedy Stewart says a federal election could see the small window of opportunity close on the city’s bid for an exemption from criminal provisions on simple possession of small amounts of drugs

Premier Mike Horgan received his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. (Facebook/John Horgan)
More than 50% of people eligible in B.C. have received 1st vaccine dose

‘We’ve made extraordinary progress together over the past few weeks,’ says Premier Horgan

Brad MacKenzie, advocacy chair for the ALS Society of B.C., says having research projects in the province allows people here to have access to cutting-edge treatments now being developed. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds research chair for Lou Gehrig’s disease at UBC

Pandemic has cut off patient access to international projects

Most Read