These Nights have the mark of our time upon them, and they’re timely, urgent, alert, steeped in mortal mystery.
A Night of Grief & Mystery combines stories and observations by author/culture activist Stephen Jenkinson, drawn from his decades of work in palliative care, with original songs/sonics by recording artist Gregory Hoskins. These two Canadian artists have been exploring the intersection of their work for 8 years, across 3 continents, in 3 recordings and 2 short films. They come to the road now in 2023 as they did in the beginning: the two of them, a singer and a storyteller, out into the mystery days. The year will bring the pair to Israel, USA, UK, Scandinavia, Australia/New Zealand before travelling across our home country, Oh Canada.
Concerts for Turbulent Times they surely are. Not poets, maybe, but the evenings are poetic. The Nights are musical and grave and raucous and stilling, which probably means they are theatrical. Love letters to life are written and read aloud. There’s some boldness in them. They have that tone. These nights have the mark of our time upon them, and they’re timely, urgent, alert, steeped in mortal mystery. They’re quixotic. They have swagger. What would you call such a thing? They called it Nights of Grief & Mystery.
The Back Story
Apprenticed to a master storyteller as a young man, earning a master’s degree in theology from Harvard Divinity school and another in social work from the University of Toronto, Stephen Jenkinson led the counselling programme the country’s largest home-based palliative care programme. A “wretched anxiety” at most death beds prevailed, a cultural poverty reigned, a death phobia, a grief illiteracy had its way. He knew it then: grief is a skill to be honoured and learned, not tranquillised or counselled away. Grief, that other way of loving life: that was the work.
In 2015, an anonymous donation arrives from a donor in the USA, along with a plea to bring Stephen’s stories out, to go public. In the same week there’s a chance encounter with Gregory Hoskins (35 years in the music business as a singer/songwriter/producer) who offhandedly says, “If you’re ever looking for a band, I know this guy …”. The mystery days are underway. A month later, with no possibility of success, no rehearsal and no plan, but with this summons in hand, they embark on a tour. What ensues are evenings of music that are part concert, part lamentation, part ribaldry, part poetry, part lifting the mortal veil and learning the mysteries there.
This unexpected partnership with Hoskins gives him another way of working the death trade work. They are bracing, blessing-laced encounters with the dark roads and the rough Gods of these times, with the ways of human making and human being.
On Stephen’s and Gregory’s first meeting.
60 Second Answers
Dead Starling Session
A ten-minute excerpt from Dead Starling Session. The two pieces that started it all—Gregory’s Take a Little Walk and Stephen’s poetic response All the Songs of Love—were last-minute additions to the lineup of the film. It doesn’t say everything about Nights of Grief and Mystery, but it says alot.
“This film continues to be my favourite single SJ and GH infusion and grounding expression.” BB, Cincinnati
Reactions from Attendees
“And for the whole show I just sat in wonder: How is it even possible to let music and words be engaged in such a fertile merging!? I felt that those deeply touching stories ..were somehow brought to life by the music as if by midwifery and the wonderful voices… I know from my work as an author that it is very tricky to intertwine story-telling or reading with music. But this event proved the impossible. I looked around by the end of the evening and saw us all there in wonder and uplifted spirit, yet deeply rooted in our inner archives.”
OE, Reykjavik, Iceland
“The show was beautiful and dark and compelling and cathartic. Educational yet humbling. Strange yet familiar. It was a singular experience. I’m still kinda dumbstruck by the whole thing.” CT, Kitchener, ON
“Wow. Just wow. What a beautiful, heart wrenching, funny, brilliant show. I was astounded by the eloquence and poetic nature of the oratory style, and by the (for lack of a better word) TOTAL BAD-ASSNESS of it all.” N, Turners Falls, ME
“I highly recommend this show to you. Highly. Higher than highly.”
PS, London, ON