In February, singer-songwriter Amelia Curran facilitated a song-writing workshop for the Stella’s Circle Inclusion Choir. At the end of the two-day workshop Curran and the participants recorded a collaboratively written song called, “Be The Change.” You can hear the recording below.

Filmmaker Roger Maunder of UpSkyDown Films filmed the workshop and created a short documentary about it. The film screened at The Rooms last Wednesday followed by a panel discussion with Sr. Elizabeth Davis, Leader of the Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy, architect James B. Case, and Carole Bestvater, Director and Founder of Strong Harbour Strings.

Members of the choir attended the screening and when the song played at the end of the film, some of them sang along from their seats in the dark theatre. When the lights came up, the panellists talked about what inclusion means to them and how their understanding of the concept was reflected in the lyrics of “Be The Change.”

Stella’s Circle provides services to adults who struggle with mental health challenges, addiction, trauma, poverty, homelessness, involvement in the criminal justice system, low literacy, and long periods of unemployment.

The inclusion choir invites everyone involved with the organization including participants, staff, and volunteers to get together once a week and sing. After each practice the choir shares a meal at Stella’s Circle’s Hungry Heart Café.

The choir has been meeting for ten years and has performed publically at least 70 times. This winter they debuted “Be The Change” with Curran at the LSPU Hall. At the end of the show, members of Newfoundland folk group, The Once, took the stage to present the choir with a Music NL Award for ten years of positive community empowerment.

Maunder’s film interweaves footage of the workshop and interviews with members of the choir who talk about the experience of working on the song and what being part of the choir has meant to them.

We see Curran in front of a bright room with a guitar slung across her chest, choir members fanned out around her in a semi-circle of chairs. Possible lyrics are written in thick-tipped, permanent marker on a large piece of paper propped on an easel behind her. A participant suggests a word be cut from the chorus and Curran replies, “You’re right, that’s me being too wordy.”

Maunder’s film captures the joy of collaboration; later in an interview, the participant recounts the word being removed and how proud she felt to have helped polish the lyrics.

Taking pride in making something communally is a theme that surfaces again and again in the film, both when participants talk about the workshop and about why they love being part of the choir.

One participant tells the camera she made her own recording of “Be The Change” with her phone during the workshop. She explains that although it isn’t very good quality she listens to the recording over and over in her apartment because she’s thrilled to have contributed to it.