Peter Kalasz films Sadie, Ian and Carol Mitchell for a music video featuring local musician Justin Hines’ hit “Say What you Will” and residents of Grand Forks. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Peter Kalasz films Sadie, Ian and Carol Mitchell for a music video featuring local musician Justin Hines’ hit “Say What you Will” and residents of Grand Forks. (Jensen Edwards/Grand Forks Gazette)

Music video asks Grand Forks to ‘Say What You Will’

The Board Room Café hosted an outdoor public viewing on July 17

Say what you will, but in the minds of many the words “Grand Forks” have been steeped with thoughts of high water and flooding, at least since 2018. It’s those images that get shared in news that travels beyond the Boundary and it’s those events that have framed Grand Forks stories in the two years since the disaster. A timeline marks a before and an after, punctuated by the repetition of words like “recovery” and “rebuilding.”

But there’s so much that exists outside of that timeline. People and their stories persist. In the words of local musician Justin Hines and a handful of volunteers, “We are more than just a flood.”

To help redraft the narrative of the place and the people, the group set out this past spring to ask their neighbours what was on their minds. Now, the crew is ready to show off what they gathered in a new music video set to Hines’ 2009 track, “Say What You Will.” On Friday, July 17, Hines and the crew will be hosting a public viewing of the video at 9 p.m. on Market Avenue in Grand Forks. Hines said that there’s no real agenda with the video – it’s open for the community to use and enjoy.

“We’re so associated with the flood, but I think what I love about this community is its resiliency, and its strength to just plow through it, and we were hoping to showcase that with this video,” Hines said. The Ontario-born musician has deployed the strategy in other communities too. In 2011, he used his song “Tell Me I’m Wrong” to support the people of Joplin, Missouri, who were recovering in the wake of a tornado. “Say What You Will,” meanwhile, has been used in music videos filmed in Toronto, New York, South Africa and Australia that each show off the thoughts and spirits of people in those communities.

This spring, just as COVID-19 restrictions were ramping up, the video production team brought the project to Grand Forks and began filming families and friends on their porches, where each group wrote down what they were thinking about on that given day – a motto, an identifier, a thank-you note, a word of encouragement for the future. Cut between shots of Hines singing the track in-studio, familiar faces to the Boundary flash on screen.

“I am so lucky to be here with you,” reads the whiteboard held by Settle Down Farm owners Ann Wilby and Ahmed Amlani. Elsewhere in the video, Scott and Jeana de Wynter-Wilkie – a teacher and a child and youth worker at Grand Forks Secondary School – sit with their dog and a whiteboard that reads “High school sweethearts.” Further along, one woman’s message insists that “Happiness is loving what you have.”

The prompt to each of the 25 families or individuals who participated in the project was simple: today – in this moment – say what you will to your community.

“I think once we started to gauge people’s reactions and see that there was something emotional and something tangible, it became clear that this was something we should at least attempt to pursue,” Hines said about first seeing “Say What You Will” as an opportunity to feature community voices a decade ago. In Grand Forks, he said, “We were trying to get a diverse group of people together and outline that we’re all connected in one way or another. The differences might be visible and obvious, but there’s just this common link that threads us all together.”

The song itself, with finger-picked guitar and soft drumming, is not on its surface a rousing cheer to connection. In fact, the lyrics can be taken to a more settled and tragic place. It speaks of endings, death, and life-changing moments. Through it all, Hines’ gentle voice insists, “And if I were to die today/my life would be more than okay.”

“I personally see the song as an opportunity,” the singer-songwriter said. “It’s a message of opportunity to just remember that there’s things bigger than us and that one of the best things we can do is to support one another.”

Hines also credits “Say What You Will” with growing his opportunities as a professional musician. The tune came out on his second album in 2009 and in 48 hours became the most downloaded track from a singer-songwriter at the time. He connected with The Canadian Tenors and other major North American acts to perform, and for six years he toured and continued to make music. Then, in 2015, Hines had to rein in his work for health reasons.

“I figured things were kind of over for me at that point – it was becoming too difficult for me to perform on a regular basis and to make music,” Hines said. Then, “Say What You Will,” a song that shirks mourning for gratitude and reflection, took on new meaning again.

“I realized that the song sort of became my message,” he said. “I very often found myself saying thank you [to supporters] and feeling grateful for the time I’ve had in music – I didn’t really have a lot of resentment towards not being able to do it anymore. So, as simple as the song is, it ended up becoming just a symbol of my journey.”

Hines said that being a songwriter means that once you release a new tune, or perform something onstage, it’s no longer strictly yours. The audience participates, interprets, projects meaning and adapts it as their own, much in the same way that the people featured in the Grand Forks video have shaped its meaning to be different than for those in Joplin, Toronto or New York.

The people featured – many of them friends of Hines’ – “have some sort of backstory that would either break your heart or make you question things [you thought you knew],” the musician said. Seeing what his friends and neighbours wrote on their whiteboards, Hines said that “It made me appreciate [the community even] more. Just to the strength and humanity that’s in this community.”

The “Say What You Will” Grand Forks music video was thought up by Alf Him, filmed by Peter Kalasz and Tina Bryan, and supported by Savanna Hines, Erinne Allen and Deb Baker. The video can be found with the online version of this story, or by searching “Say What You Will Grand Forks” on YouTube. The video will be released to the public on July 17.


@jensenedw
Jensen.edwards@grandforksgazette.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A team of volunteers helped capture some of the thoughts of Grand Forks residents for a music video to accompany local musician Justin Hines’ song, “Say What You Will.”                                L-R:Savanna Hines, Alf Him, Deb Baker, Erinne Allen, Tina Bryan and Peter Kalasz. Front: Singer-songwriter Justin Hines. (Peter Kalasz/Submitted)

A team of volunteers helped capture some of the thoughts of Grand Forks residents for a music video to accompany local musician Justin Hines’ song, “Say What You Will.” L-R:Savanna Hines, Alf Him, Deb Baker, Erinne Allen, Tina Bryan and Peter Kalasz. Front: Singer-songwriter Justin Hines. (Peter Kalasz/Submitted)

Just Posted

A sign indicating a COVID-19 testing site is displayed inside a parking garage in West Nyack, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. The site was only open to students and staff of Rockland County schools in an effort to test enough people to keep the schools open for in-person learning. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
4 more deaths, 54 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

This brings the total to 66 deaths in the region

Chris Kobelka
Trail Smoke Eaters recruit top prospects

Trail Smoke Eaters building for future in 17-year-old defencemen Joel Barton and Chris Kobelka

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Energy consultant Michèle Deluca and city building inspector Sam Ellison are researching how to account for embodied carbon when calculating a new building’s carbon footprint. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson researches climate impact of embodied carbon in new buildings

Embodied carbon is the footprint of the manufacture and transport of building materials

Castlegar Sculpturewalk 2020 – 10 Year Anniversary Sand Sculpture. (Submitted/CBT)
CBT arts and culture grant program now accepting applications

Apply through the Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Interior Health reported two more COVID-19 deaths at Sunnybank Retirement Center in Oliver Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 claims lives of two more South Okanagan care home residents

Five residents of the Oliver care home have died since the outbreak was first declared

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
Canadians divided over Keystone pipeline, despite U.S. president’s permit pullback

Two-thirds of Canadians think Biden’s decision was a “bad thing” for Alberta

Most Read