Bo Conlan was a longtime fixture on the local music scene. She died last year. (Christine Sunbeam photo)

Slocan Valley musician touched many lives

Friends miss her joy in music, passion for life, gift of spirit, and many pearls of wisdom.

It was one year ago today that Slocan Valley musician Bo Conlan died.

Her friends will forever miss her joy in music, passion for life, gift of spirit, and many pearls of wisdom. Here are a few reflections on how Conlan touched lives, as she is remembered on the anniversary of her passing.

Joe Hetherington knew Conlan from the women’s community in Vancouver. Along with several other women, Conlan migrated to the Kootenays in 1980. After studying at DTUC music school, Bo returned to “Van-coo-coo,” as she called it to pursue her music, and had her son Orion.

“Bo had an extraordinary sense of belonging in calling the Slocan Valley her home,” Hetherington says.

Always with her great sense of humour, Conlan led several choirs and taught music. As Tina Shields puts it, “Music was her passion and her connection with people was paramount. Bo was fully present when with you, and gave you all her attention whether it was in choir or one-on-one.”

Clinton Swanson met Conlan while in high school, and later attended the inaugural year of the Selkirk College music program (1989) where Conlan taught keyboards. “You’ve got to feel it!” she would say of playing and performing music. For a young, green musician those were words of wisdom to live by, Swanson says.

They played in New Nation and Carnival together. The last project they worked on was the Kootenay Divas. “My favourite show with Bo was one we did at Unityfest,” Swanson says. “We picked some tunes, had one rehearsal, and then went for it. Bo was over the top that day. I think she really wanted to give the valley everything she had and did she ever!”

Conlan was a great friend to Marilyn James and often performed with her in a sociopolitical trio with Carol Street. As James says, “The measuring stick Bo left behind is a legacy we should all be holding up to ourselves and to each other and not be afraid to call ourselves to task. I’ve held the stick up to myself and a few others in the past and I would consult Bo.

“She would get that raised eyebrow and look a little shocked and she would say ‘What the …?’ Then we would throw our heads back and laugh. Don’t forget to do those things for yourself and each other to help that glorious gaping hole. Love this place, love each other, smile, and if you can’t play music, then dance!”

Early August of last year Conlan was picking lavender with Jules Delaney on his property, the Famous Flying Cow Farm in Slocan Park.

“She said she had to go to the hospital the next day to check out her cracked rib,” Delaney says. “She never came out.”

While she was in hospital, friends gathered on Delaney’s property by the river in an evening of prayer for Conlan, only to find out she had passed away. They shared songs and stories, mourning the loss of a beloved friend.

Delaney reflects, “It is said that in the Slocan Park, where there is a rainbow you will see a double rainbow shortly after.”

Petals from the altar created that evening were taken the following morning to the river. When released, they formed a double rainbow, suggesting Conlan was still with us.

Finally, from Carol Street, her musical partner of 25 years and dear friend, and from all of her friends everywhere: Bo Conlan, thank you for gracing us with your beautiful presence.


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