For the love of music and life

If Elinor looks familiar to you, it’s probably because you’ve seen her perform with MusiArt, the choir made up of psychiatric outpatients from the Montreal General Hospital. It’s difficult not to notice her: when she’s performing and her voice joins with the others’, Elinor shines.

While she’s now known as the woman who wears a flower and a big smile, it hasn’t always been the case. And while her obstacles aren’t all behind her, she talks about them today with some distance, considering the journey she’s had and the tools she’s given herself to surmount them.

“Often, I feel depressed and I even think about suicide, but I now know it’s not because I want to die, I just want to stop suffering. For me, music is a way of overcoming that pain. It has helped me so much and continues to help me a lot!”

Nineteen years ago, Elinor had to be hospitalized for mental health problems. At the time, regular music therapy sessions were a precious source of relief, helping her to reconnect to joyful emotions. A trained pianist and composer, she came back to the joy of playing her instrument. It was in one of those sessions that she was invited to join the choir.

“Every time I participated in a music therapy session, I was blown away by how much good it did me. It gave me so much energy, so much joy! It’s incredible how much music can heal us.”

Even today, she says that MusiArt’s rehearsals and concerts do wonders for her.

“They changed my life. The choir became like a second family. The simple fact of coming together as a group to sing songs—it’s immediate, my smile comes back right away.”

That’s precisely what impresses the audiences who come to MusiArt’s shows: the group’s energy and their pride in being a part of such a tight-knit choir. A wave of happiness goes all the way to the back of the room, carried by the messages of hope in the group’s songs.

As a matter of fact, many of the pieces that the choir performs are original compositions. To this day, almost all the members have written a piece that has been put to music by Dany Bouchard, the music therapist in charge of MusiArt.

Elinor, for one, has written three songs that can be found on the group’s albums: J’ai trop de colère (I have too much anger), Espoir (Hope) and Aujourd’hui c’est Noël (Today is Christmas). She describes the writing process as a memorable and enriching experience. Once the words are put to paper, it becomes easier to feel one’s emotions and to come back to the moral behind every story. Elinor’s lyrics talk about pain, but especially about the ways to overcome it.

“To all the people who are thinking about suicide, I’d like to say that the solution isn’t to die but to stop suffering. To get there, you have to start by bringing changes to your life, like taking care of yourself, treating yourself, talking to friends, family, doing an activity you like or praying. You then learn to appreciate everything you have and all the small pleasures of life. Beyond what you have to do for yourself, there’s what brings you joy and those are the little things you must not lose sight of.”

Elinor’s dream is to help people to feel better. After sharing her story and watching a few of MusiArt’s shows, we can say without hesitation: mission accomplished.

If you would like to support the Mental Health Mission’s Music Therapy Program, please click here.