WATCH: The Gertrudes Commemorate Parham Tragedy With Video and Charity Single

By Mason Bugaresti 6/7/21 |

The Gertrudes — photo credit: Jeff Barbeau.

Canadian folk band The Gertrudes have released a new single, “Parham,” with all proceeds going towards the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). The single can be purchased on the group’s Bandcamp page for $1, but those that can afford to pay more are able and encouraged to do so. The song is also available for streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

The song was written in commemoration of the June 7, 2020 events that took place in the town of Parham, Ont. On that day, a gunman opened fire and injured one person, and also burned down the town’s historic St. James Anglican church. The perpetrator was subsequently charged with two counts of arson, and two counts of attempted murder. Parham is located about an hour north of Kingston, the city The Gertrudes call home.

“CMHA is grateful for The Gertudes’ commitment to supporting community mental health programs and services so we can be there when and where people need us,” Margaret Eaton, national CEO of the CMHA said in a press release. “These are times of increased anxiety, stress and isolation for all people in Canada, but we will get through this.”

The CMHA provides services to over 1.3 million Canadians and is powered by 5000 employees alongside 11,000 volunteers. According to the organization’s website, its mission is to facilitate “access to the resources people require to maintain and improve mental health and community integration, build resilience, and support recovery from mental illness.”

The Gertrudes are Greg Tilson, (acoustic guitar, vocals; Annie Clifford, violin, vocals; Matt Rogalsky, electric guitar, found recordings, percussion; Jason Erb, piano; Pete Bowers, drums; and Jason Mercer, bass, mellotron, found recordings.

The lyrics for “Parham” and accompanying music video aim to capture the horrific events from June 2020.

In a press statement, the illustrator of the video, Nancy Douglas, said, “Getting the visuals right when I’m illustrating text or a factual event is both challenging and invigorating for me. I was able to research this tiny village in a number of ways: by connecting with a couple of former residents, news broadcasts, and through community newsletters and newspapers. …Saint James Anglican Church, built in 1887, had been physically moved along with the Manse in 1912 to allow for the construction of the railway. The impact of the railway became a focus in my visual storytelling…

“The lyrics of Parham retell the experiences of people threatened with the violence of an individual in despair. The massive train became a metaphor for what happened that night. I'm fascinated by the way people adapt their surroundings to suit their needs; this is what I looked for when making the ‘house portraits’. The buildings in Parham show the evolution of the town and the personalities of the people who live within. The house portraits were made using cut and paste paper collage, careful looking, and Google Street View.”

Douglas was guided in her work by Tilson of The Gertrudes, who wanted to emphasize the impact that June 2020’s events had on the people of Parham, as well as first responders and social workers. Tilson emphasized to Douglas that all of these people need support and healing, which inspired donating to the CMHA.

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