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A song takes flight

Hundreds of people heard these words set to music as Squamish gathered at the Howe Sound Inn last July 2 to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympics coming to Sea to Sky Country.

Hundreds of people heard these words set to music as Squamish gathered at the Howe Sound Inn last July 2 to celebrate the 2010 Winter Olympics coming to Sea to Sky Country.

But the woman who wrote them has even bigger plans than that for her song Mountain, Sea and Sky.

Joanna Schwarz, a long-time local music teacher, arts organizer and columnist, has taken her first step into the world of music videos with the creation of a DVD set to her song, which references the sights and sounds of Sea to Sky Country.

"It always seemed to be the way to go for me," she said. "I always said that this song needs a video."

The song itself had its public debut in a concert at Squamish Baptist Church last February and was also performed at the Festival of Canadian Arts last November in addition to the July 2 performance.

It started life years before as Schwarz worked on an entry for a local song contest. "Mountain, Sea and Sky" formed part of the chorus.

A few years ago, she took the song out and rewrote it in its current form.

"I always wanted to write a song about Squamish, and once I get an idea I'm very stubborn about finishing it," she says.

When she became stuck on the opening words, a big help came from her long-time friend and collaborator Carol Grolman, who talked to her about going down to see the eagles early one morning. She loved the image and incorporated it into the first stanza.

The DVD project is a combination of several talented local musicians, including Anne Thomson on vocals, Schwarz on piano, Kristine Miles on flute and Lorne Campbell on drums, brought together by producer Brian Marchant.

It was in Marchant's home studio that retired TV/video producer Lloyd Skelton heard Mountain, Sea and Sky last June and asked Schwarz if she would like to make a video of it.

"It was quite by accident," said Schwarz. "He has this pleasure in helping artists get going."

Once she saw the finished product, which blends images of the performers with plenty of local imagery, especially of the eagles of Brackendale, she was pleased as well.

"I was pretty thrilled and awed that he'd married the images to the song," said Schwarz.

Sitting in on the mixing process of the music with Marchant, a Squamish born-and-raised musician and producer who has worked extensively with Norm Foote, was an eye-opening experience as well.

"Brian is very much a perfectionist and we both agree there's a grassroots community here; you can learn from the bottom up and see how everything comes together. That's the great thing about the arts community here."

The creation of the video actually took place while Schwarz was on one of her extended tours across western North America with her husband Rainer last summer, but Schwarz felt quite comfortable leaving her work in the hands of the performers and producers.

"I allowed a lot of creative control," she said. "I had no idea what the outcome would be. You want a lot of trust with the musiciansit never concerned me."

Out of that trust came Miles's improvised flute introduction, which captures in sound the idea of a soaring eagle, she says.

Schwarz hopes to have a copy of the DVD to show at the upcoming Wild at Art street festival in downtown Squamish Feb. 28 and will take advance orders for those who would like to buy a copy.She's currently working on another song and hopes to put together an entire West Coast-themed album.

"If I'm lucky it'll be ready for the Olympics," she laughs.

Schwarz is going into Valleycliffe Elementary School, where teacher Teresa Slik's performing arts class is learning the song, next week to talk about the creative process, and hopes to see the song performed in more schools and by other groups.

"I'd really like to see choirs take this on and people just sing it," she says.

"We seem to have lost that communal singing thing."