Arts & CultureCampus & City

Nation-wide concert for World Suicide Prevention Day coming to campus

Opera singer and University of Alberta voice instructor Elizabeth Turnbull was forced to face the reality of mental illness when her husband, Chris, died of suicide one year ago. Turnbull now uses music to raise awareness for mental illness and health with the Mysterious Barricades Concert Society, which will perform on campus on September 10, World Suicide Prevention Day.

Turnbull and a variety of other musicians will play at Convocation Hall from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in a free performance for students and community members. Mental health professionals will also be present to offer support and answer questions regarding services available in the area.

“The idea for this concert came to me literally in a flash approximately a week after Chris died,” Turnbull said. “I was still in shock, but I knew I wanted to continue to make music … to both heal and connect to people that may be suffering.”

The concert at Convocation Hall is one in a nation-wide musical series of performances of classical, folk and indigenous music by local artists. Performances will run in a cross-country sequence — as the sun rises in St. John’s, Newfoundland, music will begin live and will be streamed online.  When the concert in St. John’s ends, a concert in Halifax will play. The concerts will continue through Sackville, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver, and finally Victoria, as the sun sets across the Pacific Ocean.

Turnbull’s goal was to use what she knew — music — to impact Canada. She contacted her network of friends and musicians across the country, and all agreed to help facilitate the Mysterious Barricades Concert Society. Turnbull said she was amazed at the support she received from her colleagues in other cities and universities.

“I knew people at virtually every major city and university across the country,” Turnbull said. “It was then a question of emailing each of those people, outlining the project, and asking them to commit to the endeavour. I am not exaggerating when I say that within 24 hours, every one of them got back to me with their answer: a resounding ‘yes.’”

The Mysterious Barricades Concert’s name was inspired by the musical piece, “Les Barricades Mystérieuses” by François Couperin, which was written for the harpsichord, a stringed instrument similar to a piano. Turnbull said her husband Chris “possessed the logical intellect of an engineer, and the heart of an artist,” and loved “Les Barricades Mystérieuses.” Next week, at Convocation Hall, soloist Marnie Giesbrecht will perform “Les Barricades Mystérieuses” on the very instrument Chris built.

The cross-Canada concert will span 18 hours, with over 200 performers is open to the public. Those interested in attending can find more information and RSVP online at

“When we make music, the desire is there is connect and communicate with people,” Turnbull said.

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