Phil Dwyer, left, and his son Ben will be performing at a concert at Knox United Church Dec. 2 to raise funds to settle a Syrian refugee family in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. — File photo

Lessons from Africville for upcoming Qualicum refugee fundraiser

Concert in Parksville to feature Phil Dwyer in quartet with his son with Song of Hope

Sometimes, hopes come true.

A concert to raise funds to settle a Syrian refugee family in Qualicum Beach is coming up on Saturday, Dec. 2 at Knox United Church.

Named Song of Hope, the concert borrows its name from a song that Phil Dwyer, Juno-award-winning musician and member of the Order of Canada, performed along with other musicians for its original recording in 1997.

Dwyer, who will be headlining the concert as part of a quartet including Ken Lister, Hans Verhoeven and his son, Ben Dwyer, talked about the meaning of that song, and why he immediately thought of it upon agreeing to take part in the concert.

“It’s a bit of a bittersweet story, actually,” he said. Taken from Africville Suite, the Juno-award-winning album for Best Contemporary Jazz Album, the song is the last on the album which recalled the destroyed African-Canadian community of Africville near Halifax.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Halifax was founded in 1749, with roads and other parts of the city built by the labour of African slaves. The first official record of Africville was not long after, in 1761. Later, populated by a mix of freed slaves, Maroons of Jamaica and black refugees from the War of 1812, the community grew strong and proud, and was viewed by its residents as a safe haven away from the racism of Halifax.

However, the city taxed the residents without providing services, ran train tracks and placed undesirable industrial projects there, and eventually bulldozed the entire community in the 1960s, destroying homes at times without the consent or knowledge of the African-Canadian homeowners.

“In that respect, it created a community of refugees within Canada,” said Dwyer.

“There is a musician that I work with whose family had roots (in Africville),” Dwyer explained. “He (Joe Sealy) wrote a suite of music which we recorded called the Africville Suite, and the closing piece was Song of Hope, and it was the hope that through the lessons of the past, that we can work towards a better future.”

So, when asked to perform at the Qualicum Refugee Sponsorship Group 2017’s concert fundraiser, he said the idea to play the song “popped into my mind.”

It’s a song that Dwyer’s son, Ben (a bassist and saxophonist of growing esteem), grew up hearing and playing as well.

The concert will also feature Rosemary Lindsay and the VIU Jazz Choir, and Gabriola songstress Tina Jones. The song selection will include gospel-oriented Motown music, as well as pieces by Stevie Wonder, Eric Clapton, and Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom.

“It will be a very uplifting evening of music and community-building. That’s what we’re aiming for,” said Dwyer.

The event takes place Saturday, Dec. 2, at Knox United Church in Parksville, beginning at 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at The Source in Qualicum Beach, Cranky Dog Music, Parks West or Little Qualicum Cheeseworks.

For more info, email chair@qualicumrsg.org.

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