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This article was published 8/1/2021 (536 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A pilot project that paired a senior and a songwriter to create a piece of music will expand in the new year and culminate in a concert featuring 11 such pairings.
The Crescent Arts Centre received a grant from the Manitoba Arts Council to work on the Stories to Songs: Winnipeg 2021 project, in partnership with Home Routes/Chemin Chez Nous.
Songwriter Jaxon Haldane worked with 99-year-old Howard Swan this past summer to write a song about the Swan’s experience as a vaudeville musician with his brother in a group called the Haymakers.
The pair held several outdoor meetings, with Haldane’s 11-year-old son Ajax recording the events on video.
"Howard is incredibly sharp, with great vitality. He can express himself musically. I was captivated by our conversations. I just wanted to soak it all up," said Haldane.
Swan showed Haldane photos from what was a pre-TV and pre-radio world, when people had to entertain themselves. People flocked to theatres to watch vaudeville acts, including the Swan brothers. "The idea that people could see three shows a day at multiple theatres is so different than anything my generation, or my son’s generation, will experience," Haldane said.
Swan also enjoyed the project. "Working with Jaxon and sharing my memories as he created the music and words of his song was a wonderful experience that I will remember forever," he said.
In the end, Haldane found it easy to write a song, called A Lifetime upon the Stage.
"Howard told me about these old theatres, and spending his life up on the stage," he said. "He met Hazel, who was dancer on the Beacon stage in 1938, and they had 65 years of marriage together. My song is a tribute to Howard and his music."
Project manager Grant Simpson said plans are underway for more musical matches, who will meet online, given pandemic restrictions. The true gold of the project lies in the process between the senior and the songwriter, he added.
"The seniors get to interact with listeners, and the songwriters get inspiration from hearing someone’s story and celebrating that life," Simpson said.
The project team will work with recreation directors at care homes to identify senior volunteers, and also with songwriters from the Home Routes, a Winnipeg-based organization that champions Canadian musicians and connects them to home-based concerts and currently, livestreamed shows online.
Simpson said the online meetings will take place until the end of March, with the songwriters finishing their songs and videos in April. The show will take place in the spring.
The Crescent Arts Centre is based at Crescent Fort Rouge United Church in Osborne Village.
To view the video of Haldane and Swan working together in the summer of 2020, see youtu.be/L0CGQYcSmKA