Accessing music through visual art

Winnipeg songbird advocating experiential music for listeners of all abilities

Winnipeg musician and storyteller Raine Hamilton believes music should be accessible to all and has been putting this into practice in both her music and her performances.

A violin instructor for 12 years, Hamilton now works as a professional musician, touring across Canada and performing. She also spends time working with the Manitoba Arts Council, teaching bilingual workshops in songwriting and fiddle tune writing.

“I’m super grateful ... to be living the life I’ve dreamt of living,” Hamilton says.

The songstress also holds a bachelor of music from the University of Manitoba and a master of arts in Medieval Musicology from the University of Ottawa.

Accessibility and inclusion, Hamilton says, are two of the key factors she takes into consideration when preparing to share her music. Incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation into her shows is one way she has been able to make music a more all-encompassing experience that is available to a wider audience.

The addition of ASL interpretation presents a visual component, as well as a deeper emotional dimension to the performance.

ASL interpretation involves Deaf individuals fluent in ASL working together with a hearing interpreter to enable conversation between Deaf and hearing individuals. Hamilton first came across ­­­­­ASL interpretation about a year ago, after her string trio was invited to create a video demonstrating the visual-performance art.

“It was there I learned for the first time that there is an audience of Deaf people who are interested in coming out to shows, and are interested in participating in that community and culture,” Hamilton says.

Hamilton’s first show with ASL interpretation was held last May at the West End Cultural Centre. On March 24, 2018, Hamilton’s release party of her second album Night Sky will once again incorporate ASL interpretation, showcasing several Deaf artists.

One of the talented artists being featured, Jordan Sangalang, will be performing ASL poetry as part of the show’s opening artist’s circle.

“The first time (I met Raine) was like a blind date,” Sangalang says. “She was discussing her performance and art … we clicked. For me, signing is how I communicate.

“Sign language and art, when you combine them ... there are no boundaries, no limits.”

Hamilton wishes to encourage any artists considering incorporating ASL interpretation into their own performances to embrace the opportunity.

“Accessibility is totally possible,” Hamilton says, adding that it is her hope to increase access to art for everyone.

For cellist Natanielle Felicitas, who has now played in several performances that have showcased ASL interpretation, the experience has been fantastic.

“It’s the first time I've worked with someone who’s very intent on making it inclusive,” Felicitas says. “I think that’s a brilliant idea. Music should be for everyone, not just people who can hear.”

What can fans expect to see from Hamilton in the future? Touring for Night Sky, a potential European album release and a whole lot more music.

“I feel really strong, and I feel at ease in myself,” Hamilton says. “I really like the saying that ‘luck is opportunity met with preparation,’ and I am really lucky that I’ve been able to take advantage of opportunities.

“My plan is just to create and to grow in whatever direction I’m drawn to.”

Raine Hamilton’s Night Sky album release will take place March 24 at the West End Cultural Centre (586 Ellice Ave.), starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The venue is wheelchair accessible, with gender-inclusive washrooms.

Published in Volume 72, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 15, 2018)

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