Over the holiday season, it's often tough to find guilt-free gifts for your family and friends. Luckily for us, a small community of artists and dreamers in Vancouver has made that decision a whole lot easier. Co-founders Teal Beattie and Mark Lawrence have been working diligently to produce The Circle Project, a double album of kid-friendly recordings by local artists to benefit the Downtown Eastside's St. James Music Academy, which offers free professional-grade music lessons to disadvantaged youth.
"I've never done anything like this before," laughs Beattie. "All kids naturally love music, but sometimes the parents and caregivers aren't able to enjoy traditional 'kids music' on repeat. At the same time, kids don't necessarily want to listen to their parent's music all the time either, so it's about meeting in the middle and producing something everyone can enjoy."
Recorded and mixed by Lawrence himself at Big in Japan Recordings (located in the DTES just blocks away from St. James Music Academy), the double album features 18 original tracks by local artists including Bob Sumner, Ben Rogers, Khingfisher, Jamie Elliott, and Colin Cowan. "Our hearts are fully invested," says Lawrence, who has watched the project gain overwhelming support from the community. "It started as two, but now there are dozens of people actively volunteering their time and talents to help us bring this thing full circle."
The community development aspect of St. James Academy, which provides a safe after-school space for building creativity, self-confidence, and healthy peer relationships, made it a natural choice for the Circle Project. "It is nothing short of inspiring to see the dedication, hard work and passion that is instilled in every facet of that program," Lawrence beams. "There are no shortcuts, no students are overlooked and nobody slips through the cracks as a statistic or memory."
The Circle Project CD Release & Fundraiser celebration begins at 3pm this Sunday, December 16th, at The China Cloud (524 Main St.). It will feature live performances from the record (starting at 4pm) as well as other songs from each of the artists involved. CDs, stickers, posters, and snacks will be available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the Circle Project and, ultimately, the St. James Music Academy. RSVP to the Facebook event here.
CDs will be available for mail order in the next two weeks, and a limited vinyl pressing will also be available for order in the new year. For more information about the Circle Project, and to stream/download the album for yourself, visit CircleProjectVancouver.com.
For more information about the St. James Music Academy program, visit sjma.ca.