It started over two years ago, just before the Covid pandemic hit, at a Trivia Night fund-raiser put on by the Madawaska Valley Library. A local musician, Ken Ramsden, challenged the teams in attendance to come up with an original song lyric about surviving another winter in the Madawaska Valley. The Stationkeepers MV team rose to the challenge and won that song-writing contest but this winter, the group decided to up the ante and go after some big prize money — $5,000 to be exact; money they hope will help a whole gaggle of local children better enjoy winter, spring, summer and fall. Above: The Stationkeeper Singers, from left: Beth Hildebrandt, Sheilagh Dunn, Victoria Cybulski-Blank, Marie Villeneuve-Scott, Joanne Olsen, Kristin Marchand, and Jack Connors. (Photo Sharon Connors)
Train themed play structure near Barry’s Bay Railway Station
“It all started with Marie Villeneuve-Scott, one of our board directors,” said Joanne Olsen, president of the Stationkeepers MV, a non-profit group with 125 members dedicated to preserving the old Barry’s Bay train station and promoting the local heritage associated with it. “She noticed that one of our neighbours — McDougall Insurance — who have offices on Opeongo Square, across from where the Station is located; well, McDougall’s has this contest for non-profit organizations all over Ontario. They’re offering $5,000 to the winner of a two-minute video about any worthwhile community project that a non-profit like us are hoping to develop.” In an instant, Ms. Olsen knew the Stationkeepers MV had the perfect project to pitch.
“It’s this $12,000 fund-raising effort we started earlier this year,” said Ms. Olsen. “The Stationkeepers want to build and donate a playground structure — a replica train — so kids can play on it; we hope to put it in Water Tower Park, just a stone’s throw from the Station.”
That’s when Marie Villeneuve-Scott chimed in, “Why not submit a music video?” Everyone agreed that it might be fun to tell the story of what they wanted to build in Water Tower Park and do it with a song.
Two minutes of video doesn’t sound like a lot, but as the group dug deeper into that contest idea earlier this spring, they soon found out that it takes a lot of talent to produce a documentary short and it takes even more talent to write a song not much longer than a commercial jingle.
But Joanne Olsen was up for the task. She had penned the winning lyrics at that Trivia Night pre-pandemic, so why not try to do it again, and for a good cause. Nonchalantly, while watching a Leafs’ playoff game, she scribbled on some scrap paper. Before the third period buzzer went off, the song, ‘Station Keepers Blues,’ was born, albeit with a little help from Johnny Cash.
Shortly afterwards, Ms. Olsen and four other Stationkeepers MV founding members — Beth Hildebrandt, Sheilagh Dunn, Victoria Cybulski, and Marie Villeneuve-Scott met at the Station one evening with Kristin Marchand, a very talented and retired MVDHS music teacher and Jack Connors, a guitarist who frequently volunteers his talents at the local hospice and Valley Manor. They all go by the name of The Stationkeeper Singers, and mostly sing just for the fun of it.
Things were a little tentative at the first, but Ms. Marchand soon got them into the swing of things. After introducing a few minor but essential changes, before the night was out, a recording of the ‘Stationkeeper Blues’ was made. Sheilagh Dunn, another board member, then got her son-in-law, Justin Robinson, to shoot a video of some children playing in Water Tower Park.
With little more than two days before entries were to close, the Stationkeepers MV’s music video was complete — all one minute and thirty-nine seconds — and so ‘Stationkeeper Blues’ was submitted for consideration and quickly accepted as part of the official 2022 McDougall Community Contest.
Much like ‘The Voice’ on prime-time TV, winners are selected purely on how many ‘likes’ each video gets on McDougall’s Contest web page. Voting begins on Saturday, May 21 and ends Tuesday, May 31. So, there’s less than 12 days to see it or vote for it. Anyone wanting a 1:39 minute look-see-listen of the Stationkeepers MV’s music video can easily access it by going directly to McDougall’s Community Contest webpage link at https://binkd.co/wX97e
There’s a vote button connected to each video and fans are allowed one vote per day until the end of the contest.
Note: Some people are having trouble with the website. Try the link below if you had trouble:
“Of course, we want to win on June 1st when the winners are announced, and we very much appreciate any ‘likes’ we get — but, in the end, it’s really about bringing smiles to a lot of children who will get to play on that train we’re confident we will build with or without the contest,” said Ms. Olsen.
“Still, you should have seen the looks on those faces when we all met at the Station to record that song. After two years of Covid, this was the first time The Stationkeeper Singers got together and, boy, did it feel great to be there, just singing. Even if we don’t win, how can we keep from singing?” Ms. Olsen says she has no plans to compose another song, but she also has no plans to keep The Stationkeeper Singers from singing the ‘Stationkeeper Blues’ after the contest is over. As anyone who’s heard ‘Stationkeeper Blues’, it’s a very catchy tune that once it’s in your head, it’s pretty hard not to keep from singing.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on May 22 to provide an additional voting link.