Mysterious Barricades creates awareness and hope through concert


Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

On Sunday, Sept. 10, Mysterious Barricades: A Cross-Canada Concert for Suicide Awareness, Prevention and Hope, was hosted at Wilfrid Laurier University’s Maureen Fraser Concert Hall.

Mysterious Barricades is a cross-Canada concert which pays tribute to those affected by suicide through music. The concert is live-streamed from each location and available online every Sept. 10. The concert was founded by professional opera singer Beth Turnbull, who lost her husband to suicide in 2015.

Kimberly Barber, associate dean of the external faculty of music, has a special connection to Turnbull and helped plant the seed to create Mysterious Barricades.

“I always wanted to use my music to share a message and then when my friend Beth Turnbull’s husband died of suicide I was devastated … I had no idea he was suffering from depression,” Barber said.

“She and I spoke on the phone probably a month afterwards and she said, ‘I think I need to do something … I can’t just be living in this sadness, something good has to come out of this.’”

“As we began speaking with our colleges across the country … we just all responded to her and wanted to help her,” Barber said.

The goal of Mysterious Barricades is to “Bring the gift of music to raise awareness of the mysterious barricades between mental illness and health, darkness and a flicker of hope, life and death,” as per their mission statement.

Barber has also been personally affected by suicide, having lost both her father and grandfather before the age of 14.

“Something like that is a catastrophic event and a traumatic event in a person’s life,” Barber said. “And that was in the 70’s.”

“Growing up, for some reason I just always talked about it, although I think not really on a deep level, but I think it was also music that was my anchor and my rock,” Barber said.

“It’s really important to demonstrate through presenting this concert here that we are listening, we know and we want to be a means of hope or communication and part of the healing.”

The choice to use such a platform and medium as music to communicate about this topic is very much part of a calculated, meaningful effort.

“Our children are twice as likely to commit suicide, some [youth] are recorded as young as 6 or 7 years old.”

“Music vibrates within us on a cellular level; it can go to places where words can’t and so I feel that it’s also a universal language,” Barber said.

Mysterious Barricades plays host to people with various talents and levels of artistic ability; it is open to the public and free of charge. Holding it in the Maureen Fraser Music Hall meant that many talents from Laurier’s music department performed.

“We wanted to bring a lot of diverse voices into our concert so that it’s not just the classical music that many of our [music faculty] do.”

Some standout performances of the evening also included those from members of the Indigenous community.

Many Indigenous musical and spoken word performers participated in Mysterious Barricades, sharing their own experiences of mental health struggles and well as struggles within their community.

“What distinguishes suicide rates among Indigenous peoples from other people in Canada is that there is systemic racism and oppression that Indigenous people experience at much higher rates, whether its concerning infrastructure poverty, housing and inadequate education,” Kelly Laurila, member of Mino Ode Kwewak N’gamowak said.

Mino Ode Kwewak N’gamowak, which translates to Good Hearted Women Singers, is the name of a group that performed at the Mysterious Barricades’ Laurier venue.

Sabrina Brown, member of a member of Mino Ode Kwewak N’gamowak, explained the impact of suicide, specifically on Indigenous communities.

“Another reason why it’s very near and dear to our hearts is because our communities have the highest suicide rates in Canada,” Brown said.

“Our children are twice as likely to commit suicide, some [youth] are recorded as young as 6 or 7 years old.”

Barber hopes that Mysterious Barricades continues to grow in order to help foster conversations and dialogue about suicide awareness and prevention.

“It feels to me like this is something that will gather momentum over the years and become a real fixture so that people will have the opportunity to have these conversations and hear these stories and not feel alone,” Barber said.

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