n September 2015, a tragedy, the death of her husband to suicide, inspired Elizabeth Turnbull to set out on a formidable quest: to bring together the finest artists in Canada to perform on one day in cities across the country, back-to-back, from sunrise to sunset, in one wonderful concert event. She turned to her friends Ivan Fair and Miki Andrejevic to help make this a reality. In December 2015, Ivan approached Harold Hornig to help and the four of them became the Mysterious Barricades Concert Society. Time and time again they were told that such an event could not happen, that the coordination alone would be an unobtainable task. To make it even more of a challenge, Ms. Turnbull wanted to livestream the concert to all of Canada and the world. When approaching companies for help in the livestreaming, it was suggested that the cost of doing so would be prohibitive.
Yet, against incredible odds, these four individuals led a small team of volunteers here in Edmonton to successfully make this happen. On September 10 2016, World Suicide Prevention Day, as the first light of dawn struck Canada’s east coast, the music began in St. John's, Newfoundland. As the sun crossed the country, so did the music, moving across stages in Halifax, Sackville, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver, and finally, with the setting of the sun over the Pacific, drawing to a close in Victoria. 18 hours of music from coast to coast; all concerts free to attend, all livestreamed, all with mental health professionals in attendance to speak and offer reassurance to audience members.
The imagination, creativity, and perseverance required to bring such an event to a successful reality was inspiring. The four individuals were instrumental in creating nothing short of a miracle. They were repeatedly told that their dream was very difficult, if not impossible to accomplish and yet they kept going. Failure was not an option. Originally this was meant to be a one-time project, but the success of the inaugural event inspired the group which has now produced five annual events.
Connections at and through the University of Alberta have been central to the success of this project. It was due to the talents of the IST Events Production Team that the concerts have been livestreamed for the entire country and the world to see. The members of this team, now members of the audio/visual community within Edmonton, have each year connected with technicians across the country in order to bring audio and video signals from each of the concert cities here to Edmonton, to be combined into the continuous day-long livestream.
It was through the community social work team within the Office of the Dean of Students that Mysterious Barricades connected to mental health teams at universities in each of the concert cities. In addition, Ivan Fair worked closely with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) and the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP), both of which became sponsors and partners to of the concert event, to ensure that mental health professionals in each city were present to support audience members.
The tremendous, heart-warming success of the 2016 event inspired the team to repeat its efforts again in 2017, 2018, 2019 and finally in 2020 during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Each of the five successful Canada-wide concert events has brought recognition to suicide awareness and prevention.
This project has been a success because of the cooperation of each of the participating universities across the country. The University of Alberta continued to play a special role as the host for coordinating and live-streaming the concerts from the command centre in the basement of Convocation Hall. There, Elizabeth Turnbull and Laurier Fagnan have expertly MC’d each of the day-long events, introducing each concert as the livestream transitions from city to city, offering words of comfort regarding mental health and suicide prevention in both English and French.
The Mysterious Barricades Cross-Canada Concert for Suicide Awareness, Prevention and Hope has made Edmonton proud. Indeed, the city and the mayor have created official proclamations for each concert day, marking the dates ‘Suicide Awareness and Prevention Day in Edmonton. The concert has also helped the University of Alberta garner greater prominence and respect from the participating universities across the country.
Our concerts always followed the same format. They began with the sunrise in St. John's Newfoundland with the trumpet playing First Light Brings New Beginning written specifically for Mysterious Barricades by Allan Gilliland.
And MC'd by Elizabeth Turnbull and Laurier Fagnan in both English and French...
And ending at Victoria, British Columbia while listening to Les Barricades Mysterieuses on the Harpsichord made by Chris and performed by Charlotte Rekkon, ending in the symbolic jumping fish.