Cultivating Creativity: Facilitating spirituality through music

Photo credit: Sean Scally

“I also believe that there is a spirituality to music that is undeniable. Both by singing and also by playing an instrument.  I guess you could say I facilitate spirituality through music.”

By Jeanette Arsenault

My big dilemma: how to write about Joe Callahan – who he is and what he does – in only 500 words.

I know he is a singer/songwriter and generous to other musicians – both professional and amateur – by tirelessly organizing venues for them to perform at

The more I looked at his bio, the more I discovered the depth of his love of words and music – and I think that’s where his passion lies. Not only through his music but by showcasing music by others as well.

“I believe music brings people together in a unique way and it’s a great feeling to be connected with others in song. I see my role as a facilitator,” he explains.

“I also believe that there is a spirituality to music that is undeniable. Both by singing and also by playing an instrument.  I guess you could say I facilitate spirituality through music.”

You can find him playing/hosting at Night Kitchen, Too (six seasons to date) from September to June at Pinnacle Playhouse in Belleville, Ont.

You can head over to Henry’s, part of Signal Brewery for his “Live Is Where It Lives” two-hour live music show recorded by Cogeco TV Belleville at the Roy Bonisteel Studio north of Trenton, Ont. (Also heard on the 91.3FM broadcast from Loyalist College.)

You can join him for The Acoustic Signal at Signal Brewery in Corbyville, Ont., on Thursday evenings.

Why follow Joe Callahan wherever he goes?  Because you know that he will be showcasing some the area’s finest musical artists who very often experiment with new material. Talk about being raw energy performances and trust me – there is nothing more comforting when you are onstage then feeling the audience is with you when you finally feel a song is ready to be shared in public.

I asked Joe about his musical upbringing and learned that his mother sang/played piano and his father sang/step-danced.  Being an Acadian who grew up on fiddle tunes & stepdancing, I felt an immediate connection of course. By the age of 13, he was playing in a band with his brother and musical uncle, Mike Rivers and they called themselves The Rivermen.

When asked who is musical heroes are, he cited Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn, Glenn Gould, the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.  What a rich palette of songwriters to be influenced by!

As a former professor of journalism at Loyalist College, I couldn’t resist asking him if his journalism and songwriting skills collided or coincided in any way.

He said, “Journalism and songs tell stories and so for me they inform each other significantly. Journalism is most important at the community level. I find working as a journalist helps me to keep my feet on the ground. And I think in order for music to have real meaning, it needs to be grounded and accessible.”

You can find Joe Callahan on Facebook and his website.