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Showing heart to the hard of hearing

Singer-songwriter Hamilton making her upcoming concert accessible to the deaf community

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/3/2018 (803 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After finishing all the new tracks for her soon-to-be-released sophomore album, local chamber folk singer-songwriter Raine Hamilton found she had repeatedly, and unintentionally, returned to images of the night sky in her lyrics.

So, as she thought about what to title her most recent batch of songs, the answer suddenly became very obvious — Night Sky.

PHIL HOSSACK / Winnipeg Free Press</p><p>Hamilton (left) and ASL shadow interpreter Joanna Hawkins will be performing together on Saturday.</p></p>

PHIL HOSSACK / Winnipeg Free Press

Hamilton (left) and ASL shadow interpreter Joanna Hawkins will be performing together on Saturday.

"I was just kind of waiting for the songs to speak to me or to show themselves — like, what is this collection? How does it connect? So when I listened to them, I saw that almost all of them have some sort of night sky imagery, using it as a metaphor for something to grow towards, something to reach beyond to," Hamilton says. "It felt like that album was just making its title known."

And much like the title, the songs themselves came to her in a largely organic way. Hamilton says she acted as a sponge for inspiration, careful to collect ideas as they came and paying attention to the way the songs wanted to evolve.

"I would describe it less as waiting and more like listening, and if I’m paying attention enough I can hear something," Hamilton says.

"To me, as an artist, that’s how I feel — I often feel like the steward of these ideas or these seeds that feel so often like a gift to me, so I just wanted to make the album with the ones that are present."

Hamilton has a simple wish for Night Sky, and that is for it to be heard by anyone that it speaks to. And to make sure that anyone and everyone has the opportunity to experience her music, Hamilton’s album release show at the West End Cultural Centre Saturday, March 24, will be deaf-accessible, an issue she became passionate about after working on a project with the Free Press last year.

Hamilton volunteered her time and her talents to record a music video that included a sign-language interpretation of her song Paper Cranes. The video was part of a larger story about the lack of accessibility those in the Deaf community face when it comes to live music performances. Hamilton’s involvement sparked two thoughts in her mind: the first is that there is a huge community of people who are interested in live music, but have very limited access to it; the second is that there’s something she could do about that.

So, she began working with that same interpreter from the video and ended up hosting a concert with American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation in the spring of 2017. She’s currently working out the logistics of making ASL interpretation available on her tour dates.

During Saturday’s show, Hamilton and Deaf performance artist Joanna Hawkins will showcase a different form of ASL consultation in the form of shadow interpreting, which involves a member of the Deaf community performing a type of interpretation onstage while using an ASL interpreter in the audience to help keep time, among other things.

"When we did the show last May, we got some feedback saying it would be cool if we could hire Deaf people in some of these roles, and there’s a few ways we could do that. So, we have Joanna Hawkins, who is an ASL actor and performance artist, and she’s going to be performing," Hamilton says.

Megan Steen photo</p><p>Chamber folk musician Raine Hamilton will soon be releasing her new album, and she wants her kickoff concert to be accessible to everyone, including the hearing-impaired.</p></p>

Megan Steen photo

Chamber folk musician Raine Hamilton will soon be releasing her new album, and she wants her kickoff concert to be accessible to everyone, including the hearing-impaired.

"The hearing interpreter keeps track of what’s happening and where we are in the song and is kind of giving them cues, and then there’s the Deaf performer performing in their first language, in the language they are the master in, like a better-quality, more informed communication in that language. We are super stoked to have her."

A shadow interpreter is somebody who is deaf and an artist, Hawkins says.

"They’re usually a person who is creative and able to work with the lyrics, the music and the beat to find a way of making that represented in American Sign Language very poetically, as music and songs are. So, there’s a lot of thought of what the symbolism is in the songs," says Hawkins, adding that this type of performance will be a first in Winnipeg.

"I hope our performance will add the energy and visual imagination for the Deaf people in the audience, and allow them to get the feel and the mood of the music while I transform that into American Sign Language and make it very much representative of the song," she says.

And before Hamilton and Hawkins even take the stage, there will also be a Deaf-accessible artist circle to open the evening, featuring Abigail Lapell, Nic Dyson and ASL poet and actor Jordan Sangalang, who will be sharing two pieces of poetry.

"The seed was planted that there’s totally something we can do (to make shows more accessible), it’s very attainable to include that," Hamilton says.

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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Updated on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 12:38 PM CDT: Headline changed.

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