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Jenn Grant channels music's power to heal in tribute for victims of Nova Scotia attacks

Jenn Grant says music is "one of those universal languages" that people can use to express themselves when words alone aren't enough to communicate feelings of deep anger or sorrow. She performed Keep a Light On, a song about hope, for listeners on Checkup.

'I hope that people don't let go of that idea of hope,' says N.S.-based singer-songwriter

Jenn Grant, seen here at the East Coast Music Awards in 2016, was one of several performers who paid tribute to the victims of the Nova Scotia shootings on a virtual vigil on April 24. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Jenn Grant says music is "one of those universal languages" that people can use to express themselves when words alone aren't enough to communicate feelings of deep anger or sorrow.

The award-winning singer-songwriter channeled music's power to heal in her performance on Friday night, as part of a virtual vigil that paid tribute to the victims of last week's horrific mass killing in Nova Scotia.

Grant lives in Lake Echo, a rural community about a half-hour's drive from Enfield, where last week's violence came to an end.

She spoke with Maritime Noon's Bob Murphy, who co-hosted a special edition of Checkup with Duncan McCue, about her performance. Here is part of their conversation.

I watched that online vigil on Friday. A lot of people were moved by it. You didn't speak, but you did start with what I noticed was a very heavy sigh. How are you making sense of this tragedy?

Well, I mean, I think for a lot of people, same as myself, it's been a process where you feel a lot of shock and then, you know, some sadness and some anger. And yeah, I think I just took a breath there because, you know, you try to just kind of centre yourself.

It was a beautiful performance, very soulful and tender indeed. I know you, like so many people across the country, are experiencing this while we're physically distancing ourselves. And so I don't know how far you've been able to reach out to your neighbours or others in the area of Lake Echo.

If you have, what conversations are you having?

Well, we live in a fairly rural area. And I think that, you know, when we see our neighbours, we absolutely make sure to say "Hi." We're really lucky that we are surrounded by great people in this neighbourhood.

Nova Scotia is made up of these beautiful sort of rural communities outside of Halifax. And, you know, speaking to strangers sometimes on a walk across the street, I feel people wanted to reach out and talk about what's been happening in our province.

And I think that's a good thing to continue to reach out like that, and to talk and say "Hi" and smile. And I think those little things really matter in a time like this.

What stands out to you about the tragedy itself and the reaction in the days following?

Well, I think that as a community, we've been trying to remember the people who were victimized by this, by paying recognition to what kind, generous souls [they] were, and trying to do what we can to send strength and love to all their families — and to not remember their lives as a result of what happened to them, but as what they accomplished in their lives.

I know you're a big believer in the way music can heal. How do you think music can heal?

I think it's one of those wonderful universal languages that we can share where ... if you're not sure what you're feeling — if you're feeling empty or sad or angry — music is a beautiful tool that we all have at our fingertips, whether we're isolated or not, to be able to tap into the emotions that we need to feel, that we need to process.

And I think that sharing music online, the way a lot of people have been doing, has been a really special type of sharing. And [it's] really necessary at this time, especially in Nova Scotia — and especially also being a province that is kind of rooted in that kitchen-party sensibility and sharing music and creating together. So I think that that will continue to grow and continue to get stronger.

And you performed Mauve for the [virtual vigil], which was a really soulful, tender song. I know you're going to play for us in just a minute. What's the song you've chosen for today's program?

Today, I'm going to play Keep a Light On, which is a song that is really just about hope. And I think that's what people need right now. And I hope that people don't let go of that idea of hope.

I like to think [that] when you lose someone, that they become like a boundless spirit and the love that they had and in their life, that they expressed in their life just, becomes even greater. And so that's what I want to send out to those families.

Click "Listen" above to hear the full interview and Jenn Grant's performance of Keep a Light On. Interview produced by Kate Cornick.

If you are seeking mental health support during this time, here are resources available to Nova Scotians.

If you are outside of Nova Scotia, click here to find support in your area.

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