Allyson Reigh throws support behind Don’t Be Afraid campaign

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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As a folk singer/songwriter, being asked to write a song for an international campaign was not something Allyson Reigh expected.

Bathed in purple lights during the annual Festive Magic concert at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre last December, Prince Albert’s Allyson Reigh is returning to the city in a big way in coming weeks.

Reigh, who is originally from Prince Albert, was asked by the Kokopelli Choral Association to write a song for the “Don’t Be Afraid” campaign.

Although she hasn’t always been professionally involved in music, Reigh said she was introduced to the arts at a young age, taking music lessons and performing in recitals growing up -- she was even part of the Broadway North Theatre Company.

“My parents, they weren’t involved in a lot of music but they are very supportive of the arts, which was a big part of our childhood growing up,” Reigh said. “I know my grandparents, they all lived on farms and came from farming communities, so there often wasn’t the ability or time or money to be part of musical things.

“My grandfather was in a barbershop quartet in the 1920s, called the Hot Foot Four. They were based out of Shellbrook.”

Reigh writes mostly folk-based music, with some jazz and Indie influence.

“My parents bought me a guitar when I was 16 and I just sort of taught myself to play guitar and just very accidentally started writing songs, which were not very good at first,” she laughed. “You just keep writing and writing and then eventually I had so many songs that I put an album together with another band that I was part of at the time and then it just kind of grew from there.”

Since then, her songwriting has been getting attention. She took two songwriting workshops, one with Dave Bidini of the Bidini Band and the Rheostatics and the other with children’s entertainer Fred Penner. She also won a songwriting competition in Montreal in 2012.

Writing songs is a “way to sort of process what may be going on in your life plus what might be going on in the world around you or things you have read in the news,” Reigh said.

“Pretty much everything is an inspiration. I can’t really pinpoint one thing, but if I feel inspired to write a song it will happen,” she added. “It is very difficult to sit down and say, ‘OK, I am going to write a song about this.’ That often does not happen for me.”

Since writing a song about a specific topic is difficult for Reigh, she said the commission for “Don’t Be Afraid” was a challenge, but one she is glad she took on.

The Oran Choir, which is one of the three choirs in the Kokopelli Choral Association, wanted her to write the song in support of Scott Jones, a young choral conductor who was paralyzed after an attack last fall.

“It is a bad situation but he turned it into a project called ‘Don’t be Afraid,’” Reigh explained. “It is a campaign to promote social change and awareness around homophobia. It speaks to use art and creativity as a vehicle for this change.”

One of the current campaigns of “Don’t Be Afraid” is challenging anyone to post a picture of themselves with a “Don’t Be Afraid” sign.

“Most recently, they had Rick Mercer of the Rick Mercer Report posting a picture of himself and they had another one where someone had taken a picture with the Backstreet Boys, with the Don’t Be Afraid poster,” Reigh said. “He has garnered a lot of international attention from it and more importantly he has gotten a lot of people talking about social change and awareness and understanding about how detrimental homophobia is to our society.

“It is something I am very proud of and very honoured to do,” she added.

She was very surprised when the choir asked her to write the song, since she considers herself just a “folk singer from Saskatoon.”

A friend of a friend is in the choir and suggested her for the job.

“I don’t know what made me say yes, but I did and that could have gone either way for me,” Reigh said. “They really liked the song, so it turned out really well.

“They were complimentary and very sure this is something they wanted to do, so who am I to say no to that?”

Reigh was given three months to write the song, although she spend “the first two and a half months sitting and thinking” about the song before hunkering down to write in in the last couple weeks.

Although she wrote the music and lyrics, the song was arranged by Jen McMillian, Reigh said.

“I wrote it in a very different way then I would write songs for myself,” Reigh said. “I have heard it with the choir and Jen McMillian really is a genius.”

She will also have the opportunity to hear it in person and meet the choir during Podium in Halifax this week.

“I am thrilled to hear them and very excited,” Reigh said.

Since the campaign is near to Reigh’s heart, she encourages others to get involved. The campaign can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dontbeafraidcampaign.

Reigh will be having a busy month, as at the end of May she will be performing with her band as the opening act for All Mighty Voice on May 29 at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre.

Last year, Reigh did a CD release at the gallery and is happy to support her friends with their release this year.

“They are great and they are my friends, so that makes it equally as awesome to be asked,” she said. “They are wonderful musicians and have put a lot of work into this album. I’m very happy for them. When I did my CD release, they were very supportive of me and they were a big help for that so I am happy to return the favour.”

In addition, Reigh said it is nice to be playing in Prince Albert again.

“I think that P.A. has a great little arts community (and) obviously it is my home, so it is a great way for me to connect with my hometown again,” Reigh said. “I think we put on a good show. We have a wide variety of songs that we do play, not only my own songs but we do throw in a few covers and I think we have a lot of energy.”

The show will be a perfect Thursday night concert, because it is “something you can sit and relax” while listening to, she said.

Reigh’s CDs are sold at Dr. Java’s and the Shenanigan Coffee Shop. She can also be found online at www.facebook.com/allysonreighmusic.

Organizations: Kokopelli Choral Association, Broadway North Theatre Company, Backstreet Boys Mann Art Gallery Shenanigan Coffee Shop

Geographic location: Shellbrook, Montreal, Saskatoon Halifax

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