A group of people from the margins of society has been rehearsing music twice a week at Sunshine House. Now they are releasing a CD at an event at Crossways in Common today.
Sunshine House is a community drop-in centre serving homeless people, drug users, and those suffering from HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). The centre provides meals, activities, shower facilities and laundry facilities.
Singer-songwriter J.D. Ormond is the co-ordinator of the recording project.
It was developed specifically out of the Solvent Users' Recreation Project (SURP), which offers a whole range of creative and recreational activities. The music module was the most popular of all the activities, so Ormond decided to take it to the next level, spearheading the development of the CD.
Drummer Adrian Spence, bass player Vince Andrushko and accordionist Shelley Marshall from Nathan form the core of the band with Ormond, and Blake Thomson of The F-Holes engineered the recording.
A collection of Sunshine House drop-in participants, known as the Shiners, are enthusiastic participants on backup vocals and percussion.
"We created a bunch of percussion instruments out of ramekins, lentils and beans, so every song has that percussion," laughed Ormond.
He said the original songs were inspired by the stories of the drop-in participants.
"We were trying to create an album that was indicative of the environment we were in and the people involved. These were created for and by and shaped around the stories and the slang and the humour of the group."
So there are Main Street-themed songs, references to local landmarks, and a number of songs based around jokes.
Gilbert Spence, a drummer in the band, says he still sniffs occasionally but is trying to keep it under control. He said he's seen Sunshine House make a real change in others.
"Most of them that hang around here, they've kind of cleaned up their lives a little bit," he said.
Spence comes to Sunshine House for the friends, the company and the atmosphere. But it's the music that really draws him in.
"I just love it!" he said. "I wish this place was open every day so I could come and monkey around with the drums."
Ormond admits that there have definitely been challenges along the way.
"Getting to know people has been a very slow process, and requires a lot of patience and a lot of openness and a lot of listening over the year and a half that I've been involved in this project," he said.
"But it's been incredibly rewarding. For one, the people involved in this project are very committed to it," he added.
"This is a demographic that could be considered to be on the fringes of any type of services, so it's very rewarding to know that we've created an environment at Sunshine House where people from the outside of society can come in and be themselves and contribute their ideas and enjoy their experiences a little more."
Added Spence, "It lightens up the spirit."
J.D. and the Sunshine Band release their new CD at Crossways in Common (222 Furby St.) on April 9 at 7 p.m.