by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
[Note: This post is the second in a two-part series. You can read the first part here.]
A strange way, a strange way indeed. What a strange way to start a revolution.
The last time Martyn Joseph passed through the Ottawa region was not in fact Ottawa, but Smiths Falls, Ontario back in the winter of 2008. Before that were a couple of stints at the Black Sheep Inn. I honestly don’t know why the Black Sheep hasn’t picked him up since, but really, it was great to be able to host Martyn at Ecclesiax, right in the heart of the Glebe.
From the opening chord to the closing note, the performance was captivating. Taking us on a journey of heartbreak and redemption, Martyn and his guitars opened a portal to the pain and suffering of our world, allowed us to participate in that, to feel it, to truly feel the power of lament (laments have a purpose and laments have a cost, a requiem playing to gather the lost), and the relief and release that come with such weeping, such confession, and inevitable resistance.
Because Martyn’s performance on that cold February night lit a fire. For those of us in the room, the fire of resistance against injustice was the inevitable conclusion. Not helplessness. Not bleak self-pity. But resistance through song, through action, resistance that would drive each of us to pay more attention to this world, responding to injustice with voices declaring our opposition, and invoking words and works for justice.
In a world, and amongst people hell-bent on destruction, we require the prophetic, poetic voice. We need the voices of those like Martyn Joseph and Jon Brooks to point us back, to lead us back, to remind us that we need to turn tender again.
We dearly need those to stand up and in bold acts of humility to tell us that all is not well with the world, despite what the papers say, despite the positive spin our political and economic leaders seem to give our current situation. We need to be pointed back to the sources of life, of community, of our social well-being, and we need to rage against injustice and murder and terror. Hearing Martyn’s “Five Sisters” for the first time send shivers down my spine – and finding out that he was going to play it at a gig in a synagogue a few days later made me think he’s either quite brave or quite crazy. Perhaps a little of both.
Whatever the case, I cannot wait to hear from Martyn again. Hopefully he’ll get picked up by Folk Fest here in Ottawa sometime soon. That would be absolutely amazing.