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Tom Jackson, acclaimed First Nations singer and actor, will take part in the upcoming Sing Fires of Justice program in Waterloo on Sunday, Sept. 17 to foster reconciliation and raise money for Indigenous student scholarships.

The annual festival, organized by a coalition of sponsors led by Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community, consists of two public events taking place on Sunday, Sept. 17: An Afternoon with Tom Jackson: Song and Story at 3 p.m.; and An Evening Festival of Words and Music​ at 7 p.m.​

Jackson, a mass choir and a number of local musicians will reflect on the theme: How do we stay centred, open and connected in these complex times? The program is designed to help further the ongoing process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous neighbours. The events are free, but donations will be dedicated to Indigenous student scholarships at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Organizers hope the free events will be well-attended by students because Jackson is an important role model for Indigenous youth, says Jean Becker, senior advisor in Wilfrid Laurier University’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives.

“Even before Indigenous/non-Indigenous reconciliation became a widely talked about imperative in Canada, Tom Jackson was modelling how to do it in his work as an actor, singer and philanthropist,” she says, noting that Jackson has also received honorary degrees from 10 universities and has served as chancellor of Trent University.

Debbie Lou Ludolph, director of the Kanata Centre for Worship and Global Song at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, says the mission of Sing Fires has always been to highlight injustices through story and song while making space for diverse expressions of spirituality and culture.

“Tom Jackson brings the Indigenous voice alive, offering the opportunity to expand understandings of the Indigenous experience and to work towards reconciliation,” Ludolph says. “He embodies our festival’s goals to work towards the flourishing of all people through music and activism.”

At its heart, reconciliation is a process of healing. And singing together, in community, can foster that healing, says Lee Willingham, director of the Laurier Centre for Music in the Community.

The connection between singing and wellness has garnered considerable attention among researchers,” Willingham says. “There is lots of anecdotal evidence about the power of choral singing, but studies are confirming that mental, social and psychological benefits occur as people sing in community.”

Sing Fires of Justice Public Events

Sing Fires of Justice public events take place at First United Church, 16 William St. W., Waterloo.

An Afternoon with Tom Jackson: Song and Story

Beginning at 3 p.m.: Sing Fires of Justice – An Afternoon with Tom Jackson: Song and Story. In the spirit of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, the seminary, LCMC and their partners present Tom Jackson in an interactive program of song and story.

Cost: Free. Reserve a ticket through Eventbrite.

An Evening Festival of Words and Music

Beginning at 7 p.m.: Sing Fires of Justice – An Evening Festival of Words and Music. Fostering friendship and understanding between all cultures, Tom Jackson, local musicians and a mass choir present a program of faith, music and justice. Note: Everyone who would like to participate in the mass choir for the 7 p.m. event — regardless of singing ability or experience — is welcome to attend a choral workshop and rehearsal in the First United Church sanctuary from 9:30 a.m.-noon on Saturday, Sept. 16.

Cost: Free. No ticket required.

Sponsors

Kanata Centre for Worship and Global Song at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, Laurier Centre for Music in the Community, Wilfrid Laurier University’s Office of Indigenous Initiatives, Laurier Student Life Levy, Laurier Library, Mino Ode Kwewak N’gamowak (Good Hearted Women Singers), Laurier Department of English and Film Studies, Laurier Department of History, Royal Canadian College of Organists, First United Church, Waterloo.

Questions may be directed to Dorinda Kruger Allen, administrative and events co-ordinator, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary at 519.884.0710 x3241 or dkrugerallen@wlu.ca​.

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