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Songs connect lives of countless people
November 28, 2008
CALGARY, Alta.—Listening to the soothing lullabies of the CD, To Such as These, songs and lullabies for children of the world, is part of the bedtime routine for Winnipeg siblings, Alexa, Ethan and Joshua Hare.
“Our kids won’t go to sleep without it,” said their mother Selena, explaining the CD is her favourite gift for friends celebrating the birth of a child.
As she turns on the CD players in the children’s rooms every evening, she takes a few moments to think of other families listening to the lullabies. “I like to visualize parents all around the world sharing the same music to comfort their children,” she said.
She also takes a few moments to pray for people living with HIV.
The CD, featuring Calgary vocalist Kim Thiessen and Winnipeg musician Darryl Neustaedter Barg, is the first of three CDs released by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Alberta in partnership with Foothills Mennonite Church to raise money for MCC’s Generation at Risk program, a program that supports HIV/AIDS projects in many countries.
“We pressed 1,000 copies and expected to have some in the storage room” said Pastor Doug Klassen, reflecting on the overwhelming success of the CD released in February 2002 and how the release of this CD blossomed into a rewarding ministry for the congregation.
Within two weeks, the short-run of 1,000 CDs were sold and over the years, more than 15,000 copies have been sold. The interest in this CD opened the door to concerts and the production of two more CDs, The Light Shines, songs and carols for the Christmas season and Hope Is. Plans are underway to produce the fourth CD in the fall of 2009 with a choir from Kenya.
Klassen attributes the success to “good quality music tied to a good cause,” but emphasized that everyone involved in this project is keenly aware that “in the fullest sense the spirit of God is part of this project.”
More than 36,000 copies of the three CDs have been sold, and along with concerts, have raised more than $650,000 for MCC projects that touch the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS, support children orphaned by the disease, teach prevention and address the poverty and injustices that perpetuate the spread of the disease.
Thiessen said it is painful for her to receive emails from Canadians living with HIV/AIDS who express a need for similar programs in Canada. “It would be extremely gratifying if MCC had a strong HIV/AIDS program in Canada,” she said.
She also receives emails from people who share their stories of how they are finding hope and healing through listening to the CDs. A phrase which she has heard many times over the past years is: “Do not underestimate what your songs do.”
Through first-hand experiences, she understands the healing power of the songs that she is recording. As she was recording the first album, To Such As These, her sister, Karen, was in palliative care.
“This album is a compilation of all the songs that I like,” she said, noting she dedicated the CD to her sister Karen who passed away at the age of 47 in June 2002, three months after the release of the CD. “Recording this CD was a way for me to deal with my loss, my impending loss."
Her sister, she said, was excited about the project and when the master copy was completed, Thiessen immediately brought it to her sister so that she could listen to the songs.
“The sicker she got, the more she listened to the CD,” recalled Thiessen. “It seemed to calm her down, to calm her breathing. This is much bigger for me than just a CD.”
The idea for this project came from Thiessen’s friend, Susan Nielson who was expecting a grandchild and asked Thiessen to consider making a recording of lullabies.
Nielsen said it is overwhelming to think how this idea marked the beginning of a project that is touching and connecting so many lives. “Every link of the chain is important,” she said. “I just wanted Kim to sing lullabies—she has such a calming, peaceful voice.”