Spreading Hope in tragic times

By James Keller

In the wake of the events of September 11, many people were left wondering what they should do. Some people donated money, and others blood. For local musician Simon Billow, the gift of hope fills that void.

"We didn’t feel like creating financial donations, there’s already a lot of people doing that and doing a good job," says Billow. "We felt it wasn’t money that people needed, but hope."

Billow is offering this through Hope, a CD single featuring a collaborative folk song of the same name. By dealing with the emotions and effects resulting from the attacks, Billow helps himself cope with the events as well. As a musician, putting out a song seemed like the appropriate avenue to do so.

"Personally, music has always been a real strength for me," says Billow. "The most natural way to respond was through music."

For this project, Billow was accompanied by a host of local musicians, including Dave Hamilton and members of Calgary band Mocking Shadows. Everything from talent to studio time to recording gear was donated, including $10,000 from a small number of local businesses.

"Within 10 days we had the song recorded," he explains. "Everyone just kind of threw in their efforts and volunteered."

Like the resources going into the project, the goal was to distribute the CD for free.

"The whole idea was to give the CD away to organizations like the Red Cross, so we decided that if people wanted to make a donation, we suggested five dollars," says Billow. Five dollars actually covers the cost of two CDs, which gives someone who can’t afford the disc an opportunity to get it as well.

Although the ultimate goals is to distribute it to groups in the U.S. and specifically New York, Billow doesn’t mind that it’s currently still a local effort.

"There are people in Canada obviously going through something because of this," he says. "But the whole goal was to get it out to the people in the U.S., and that’s still the goal. I know it sounds kind of big, but that’s our hope."

Despite growing sentiment that terrorism isn’t a Canadian problem, Billow disagrees.

"I think from a real political and military standpoint, there is some truth to that," says Billow about the debate. "But from a global unity standpoint, I think it’s our responsibility to respond to the problem. This is an effort to do that."

Even without projects like this, Billow still thinks there are things we should take from these events in the future. Over a month since the attacks occured, Billow’s initial reactions have changed as he looks to the future.
"[After the attacks], I sat at

my TV like everyone else watching this picture of a plane slamming into a building and wondering why," he remembers. "Has it worn off in a way? I suppose in some ways it almost feels like old news, but I think it’s also broadened my understanding for the need for some kind of compassion. To just take a second and not curse the guy who just cut you off in traffic, but have a little slight moment of grace."

More information can be found at www.songofhope.com.

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