Canadian musician, Barney Bentall sang and played with acclaimed author, Lawrence Hill on a cool, quiet Bowen Island evening in June. The event was hosted in The Hearth Gallery and Bowen Island Library Annex, an airy, chapel-like structure nestled amongst the Cedars and Alders of Snug Cove.
Local writer and community leader, Pauline Le Bel, opened the event with a land acknowledgement for Bowen Island, Nexwlélexwm, where she taught us the Squamish word for "We Lift Each Other Up".
|Photo by Samantha Adkins
Then, Barney Bentall and Lawrence Hill took turns playing and reading from their life works. Cosmic Dreamer was a big hit with the audience and Hill says is as one of his favourites. A beautiful video of the song is available on YouTube:
Hill read from Beatrice and Croc Harry, The Illegal, The Book of Negroes and his work in progress about black soldiers building a highway in the Yukon during World War II. Hill is currently staying on Bowen Island to work on this book. As well as being an excellent writer, Hill is a skilled reader and storyteller.
But how are Bentall and Hill connected? Back in 1975, Lawrence Hill held a 45-pound typewriter on his lap during a flight from Toronto to Vancouver to study writing at UBC, much to his family's consternation. (They hoped he would become a doctor or a lawyer.) He rented a place near the university for $60 a month (!). Hill felt at home in a place with a trampoline, an Italian plum tree, and Sunday dinners where he was invited to dine each week, accompanied by a bottle of Baby Duck.
Hill remembers Bentall at 18, coming from Calgary to visit his girlfriend, now his wife, Kath whose family owned the house where Hill lived. Bentall built a fence during his visit, which greatly impressed Hill who doesn't consider himself very handy. Bentall says he's still building fences on his ranch in Northern British Columbia.
Hill and Bentall have great chemistry and I think we were all charmed by the stories and camaraderie. Bentall attributed inspiration for most of the songs he played to his wife Kath, who cheered him in the crowd.
Being a pastor's wife, I was haunted by his song The Preacher. The song references Bentall's experience leaving his Baptist upbringing to "play the devil's music in bars." I was relieved Bentall told us his once rocky relationship with his Dad was repaired before he passed. The theme reminded me of my current work in progress currently titled Enough about two pastors families struggling to live up to the expectations of their congregations. Follow this blog to hear when Enough will be available."We life each other up" was certainly the right word for this uplifting and inspiring night. I was once again amazed by the talent and gifts housed on Nexwlélexwm.