Music Melts Our Separations

Community means different things to different people. In some of its most compelling forms, seemingly different people are brought together over one thing. And through that one thing, differences blur and we realize that we aren’t so unalike after all. Music, of course, has a way of connecting people. Its magic lies in the fact that it allows us to be in the moment, look inside and see ourselves – and others – as the imperfect but beautiful humans we are.

In recent years, Leah Abramson of the Abramson Singers, performing at The Arts Station May 22, has taken her passion for music and its uniting qualities into the corrections system. By bringing music to women in prison and transition houses through choirs and, most recently, a rock camp, Abramson has relearned that people are people – that we’re all in the community of humanity.

“The women in there, if you ask them about their lives, it’s not super surprising. Most of them have been in the system a long time and it’s really complicated. It’s not just that they’re bad people – the lives that they’ve had have been really hard,” she explains. “And it’s not going to get better unless they get better, and they’re not going to get out and be productive people unless there’s some kind of rehabilitation, and I see arts as a really important part of that.

“I mean, people go to music, not just to play it, but to listen when they’re feeling a different range of emotions, and it’s actually proven to be quite therapeutic in hospital settings and all kinds of things,” she adds. “Just having it as an option, I think, is really important.”

The music of the Abramson Singers has a therapeutic quality of its own. Abramson’s ethereal voice rests high on a cloud of indie guitar and keyboards. The band recently returned from a stint in Ontario, touring with fellow Vancouverites Octoberman and performing a showcase at Canadian Music Week in Toronto. And when the six-piece – rounded out by Tyson Naylor, Patrick Metzger, Lucien Durey, Dan Gaucher and Tim Tweedale – comes through Fernie, it will have its second album in hand. The Late Riser is releasing May 14. and got its start through a 2011 Indie Band residency at the Banff Centre, where the group had an opportunity to have studio time with producers Howard Bilerman (formerly of Arcade Fire) and Tony Berg (Bob Dylan, Peter Gabriel). It was also a chance for the band to gel as a band.

“That was a chance for us to really spend some time together and rehearse a lot,” Abramson says. “It’s one of those things, well, everyone’s so busy all the time, and we can get one rehearsal in before a show. But this was, okay, we have our own rehearsal hut in the woods. Let’s just rehearse for three hours today and then go for lunch and come back and work on something else.”

It’s easy to see musicians as kinds of rarified humans. We see them up on stage having fun, and we think how lucky they must be to have that kind of life. Really, though, they aren’t very different from the rest of us. Behind a night on stage are the endless hours sitting in front of a computer organizing the whole business of getting there. But when they are there, it is an opportunity for all of us to connect.

The Abramson Singers are performing at The Arts Station May 22 at 8pm.