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Music from past songwriting camps releasing this summer, as retreat goes online

Songs 4 Nature has a few more group singles to release this summer, to share the music written by campers with the public
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Local musician Megan Nash with a group of Songs 4 Nature campers at Kenosee Lake. (photo by Ryan Hicks)

The Songs 4 Nature songwriting project is changing things up this summer with the debut of its first single in a series of song releases, set to take place over the next few months. 

Titled “Thrill on the Wind,” the single is the result of the 2018 songwriting retreat in Last Mountain Regional Park, where 22 songwriters put their heads together to produce a collaborative work to finish off their camp experience.

Organizer and musician mentor Glenn Sutter shared the story behind the collaborative single, which really encapsulates the whole experience of Songs 4 Nature.

“It was really hot and muggy during the day, and not many clouds around, but suddenly the pelican colony out on the lake lifted up into the air and swirled over our heads, like a warning that something was up,” said Sutter. 

“And about half an hour later, a small but mighty storm came roaring across the lake and smacked us. Some people took cover, but most of us were dancing in the rain and so amazed by the power of this storm that it made its way into our songs,” he continued. “And that’s really what the song is about, being sort of taken with what nature can do.”

This sort of experience is the feature of most of the music that comes out of the songwriting retreats, said Sutter. Each retreat usually produces one group collaboration, focusing on the group’s collective experience in nature during the weekend getaway.

As an initiative put on by the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina and Environment and Climate Change Canada, the songs written during the retreats are usually included in an exhibit at the RSM for people to listen to and enjoy. 

But this year, with the museum closed, the production team decided to do something a little different to share the music with people. 

“Thrill on the Wind” is the first of four singles written at past Songs 4 Nature retreats set to release over the next three months — which will potentially cumulate in an EP album later in the spring.

Local musicians and retreat mentors Ryan Hicks, Megan Nash, and Kara Golemba are each producing one of the four singles, the majority of which they were able to record in the studio before COVID-19 hit.

“They all have their own different flavour and different writers that were involved, who got to play on then, and it’s pretty fun,” said Nash, in an earlier interview with the Moose Jaw Express. “These songs are exercises, essentially, to see if you can bring a song to formation with a group, [and] it is so much fun to do.”

The production team is excited to share the music with the public, especially as stream revenue from the singles will be donated to the Friends of the RSM group in support of nature conservation and research.

Currently, “Thrill on the Wind” is available on Bandcamp, iTunes, and Spotify, with a lyric video available on YouTube. The next single, titled “Higher Ground” from the 2019 retreat, will release on July 24, and the remaining two singles will follow in August and September.

Sharing music on the Internet isn’t the only part of Songs 4 Nature that is changing this year.

Usually, the retreat takes place in one of the province’s parks or campsites, where attendees are encouraged to work on their own individual music while also joining in to help shape the group song written every year.

This summer’s edition of the songwriting camp is going to look a little different, however, as the camp has moved to an online format due to COVID-19.

The 2020 retreat begins on July 9, with a full roster of attendees as well as a waiting list — proving that the camp is catching interest.

“We love getting out on the retreats for the camps, but of course this year we can’t,” said Sutter. “So we’ve gone online with the camp and we’re going to do an online show as well, for the windup [on Aug. 15].” 

Mentors and musicians Hicks, Nash, and Golemba will be returning once again this year, joined by Sutter, writing teacher Joyce Belcher and researcher Katherine Arbuthnott.

Sutter hopes that the retreat in its new format will still be as inspiring as any other year, despite the physical distance from nature.

“Since we’re only together as a full group for small pockets of time, there’s less opportunity for the organic interaction that happens at a retreat, [so I think] people will go maybe a bit more personal, a bit deeper with their songs,” said Sutter. 

He also guessed that the group song will be much different from this summer’s retreat, as the time and distance restraints will necessitate a totally different format of collaboration.

For more information about Songs 4 Nature and to listen to the most recent single “Thrill on the Wind,” visit the retreat’s website or follow its Facebook page for updates.