Amplifying with Shane Belcourt and Cheryl L’Hirondelle #APTN

Shane Belcourt at the DTS Studio No offence to Shane Belcourt, pictured here in session at David Travers-Smith's studio but I am regretting the photo I did not take on this day. The amazing women who were in the room together at that moment were having a bit of a reunion and I didn't want to interrupt. Here's what happened:

Shane is one of the principals of The Breath Films - makers of all kinds of great content including several Indigenous-peoples-related Heritage Minutes. He and producer Michelle St. John are just getting started on production of a beautifully conceived series for APTN called "Amplify", in which a variety of Indigenous artists write a new piece of music inspired by another artist's work. So for the second day in a row I was at David's studio as they shot the recording of Cheryl L'Hirondelle's new song inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer's book, "Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants" - part of what will become the first episode of the series.

I've known both Cheryl and Michelle for many years through a variety of projects and encounters. We have a great series of portraits of Cheryl taken at the Edge of the World Festival on Haida Gwaii back in 2008. David and Shane asked if maybe I would like to bring Voyageur by and see if we might be able to make use of it as part of the session. When I arrived, Cheryl was recording vocal tracks so I just hung out and met the crew. I was giving Shane a tour of the guitar and he was playing as we talked and man could he play! Director, writer, cinematographer, guitarist - quadruple threat! So he got some ideas for some guitar tracks for the song and we went into the studio - first to shoot a little DVD-extras segment introducing Voyageur and then for Shane to lay down some guitar. While all that was going on, Michelle and Cheryl had invited some old friends to come and add some vocals to the track and they were starting to arrive: the formidably elegant Monique Mojica, who had played Grandma Builds-the-Fire in Chris Eyre's 1998 film "Smoke Signals" (Michelle had played the role of Velma - hard to believe that was all twenty years ago!) and the tremendously accomplished and stylish jazz singer and Native Earth Performing Arts dramaturge Rose Stella. By the time Shane was done recording with Voyageur and I had stepped out to do a FaceTime meeting about an upcoming event, these folks were getting caught up as they got ready to start shooting their singing scenes. I thought maybe I should ask if I could get a shot of everyone with Voyageur but I didn't want to intrude on everyone's process. I regret that as I'm pretty sure that would have been an historic photo.

Thanks to David for being his usual calm self in the midst of a hectic shoot and recording session and to the Breath crew: Adam, Tony and Sean. This was just the first shooting day of the first episode that's going to take them around the country for the next little while but I hope we'll get a chance to reconvene with Shane and do a "Places of Note" podcast with him when he's got some breathing room. In the meantime, I'll look forward to seeing the series on APTN when it airs next year.

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