Today is the anniversary of Jack Layton’s death. In 2011, I was at the Banff Centre, part of a Carolyn McDade and friends recording project with about a hundred women from different places in Canada and the USA. As I headed to breakfast that morning, one of the women from our group was in tears. When I asked what was the matter, I learned that Jack was dead.
I was shocked, went to tell another woman, and the rest is a blur. I know that we honoured him and his work with a moment of silence in the recording studio. And I remember the women from the USA asking about Jack and listening to our stories about him as well as the history of the NDP, the CCF, and the Farm and Labour parties that preceded them.
On the day of his funeral we recorded “Now You Can Go On”, one of four songs Carolyn wrote based on the words of the poem, You, Standing There Reading This: Stop, by William Stafford. It was such a fitting song for that day.
Later, my USA roommate, Ginny, and I sat in our room in Lloyd Hall, crying, as we listened to Stephen Lewis deliver Jack’s eulogy. Everyone, from both north and south of the border, was deeply moved. That deeply emotional experience made its way into our recording. The CD, Widening Embrace, is more powerful as a result.