Artist-Educator Glenn Marais Reflects on Winter Showcase Music – ‘Spirit Of the North’

Written by DAREarts Artist-Educator, Glenn Marais.

Music is a gift to all of us. It echoes in our hearts and minds and resonates forever in our consciousness. Great songs can transport us to a specific time and place and a memory within seconds of the first note or chord and just like that, we are whisked away and under its spell.

Writing songs with my young friends from DAREarts is a true passion of mine. We write at a frenzied pace, starting at 9:30 and finishing with a recorded song at 2:30. The songs are written based on theme and once selected, I share song writing techniques and examples by singing popular and classic songs and then we send them off in small groups to brainstorm words, then lyrics which become verses, chorus’, rap sections and melodies developed to match their words.

The teachers and myself are continually blown away by their creations and this years’ Gr. 8 class took it to another level thanks to the generosity and compassion of the people at DAIS.  DAIS is a creative arts and music studio in Toronto, featuring five floors of recording studios, writing spaces, meeting rooms, multi-media and more. It is a cornucopia of creativity and we had it for the day to create and record our song. What a blessing. This building is incredible and eclipsed only by the generous nature and enthusiasm of the owner, Sol Guy and staff.

Our theme this year was self and our place in the world and how we can make a difference. It’s all in the lyrics written by these insightful, compassionate and intelligent students.

I could feel their nervousness at the rehearsal prior to Thursday’s performance, but I wasn’t concerned. It was a caring tension. It felt like they were presenting their song to the audience with a compassion born from creating it and a pride in their work. As if they wanted it all to come out with the same beauty as the creation of it. I admired them for that love of their craft and respect for their art.

When they performed, it was with grace and poise and attitude in the rap sections and power in the chorus. They owned it and it showed in their beaming faces as they smiled at the end with the applause of their parents, family and friends washing over them.

At the end of the show all of our DAREarts students gave a gift, a musical handshake to the people of Webequie First Nations reserve. They sang the song, “Spirit of the North”, composed by myself, and teachers and students of Simon Jacob Memorial School in Webequie. We wrote the song in October 2012 as part of a healing process after one of Webequie’s fine young men, Jordan Wabasse, passed away while living in Thunder Bay pursuing his dream of playing hockey at a high level.  He was found by the Kaministiquia River three months after disappearing in February of 2011.

The entire community was devastated and his classmates in particular where in shock and in mourning over the loss of their friend and someone they all looked up to.  We composed the song to heal our battered souls and to offer hope and love to the community. The lyrics seemed to flow out of us and the song grew around it like a protective cocoon. When we performed it in Webequie, the students sang with incredible passion and feeling, releasing their pain and opening their hearts again to healing and possibility. It was an incredible time to be with them and share that journey.


The students sang the song last night as if it were their own. There was a resounding power and joy in their voices as they sang together, in harmony, extending their hearts to our friends in the Far North.  I had shivers up and down my spine as I sang with them and felt the emotion coming out of our DAREarts students in waves of uninhibited passion. I’ll never forget that moment and if their words have wings the people of Webequie must have heard them last night and felt the splendour and glory of the moment.

This program does so much more than produce great music. It creates great moments of triumph through struggle, growth through understanding of self and a shared passion for the arts and each other that is developed and nurtured through the DARE values. I try to live by these values too because they are guiding lights and reminders of what we can be when we try our best.

DAREarts Artist
Glenn Marais

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