Steve Bell – by John Vooys
Monday morning, we had the privilege of meeting Steve Bell and spending a day with him and an Aboriginal elder he’d met named Marcel Hardisty. So, who is Steve Bell? I knew he was a musician my mother listened to quite a bit, and who toured Calgary relatively frequently; I was quite fond of some of his songs, and not as fond of others. This was just about the sum total of my knowledge. The first thing I noticed when Steve showed up in the classroom with us, however, was how humble and friendly he was – chatting with us as though we’d met before, and bringing a large box of his CDs which he offered to us as a gift. (It was only later I learned that Steve’s connection to Harmony through Harmony was via Pat Nixon, although I’d imagined that that’s just the sort of person he was when meeting people.) He had the bearing of an artist or a craftsman, but there was nothing that suggested he was somehow above us. For instance, as a personality type aficionado, I found out his enneagram type over lunch (likely a 3, although he’s not certain about this).
The majority of that day was spent learning from Marcel about the heritage, religion, and spirituality of his people, the Anishinabe, and Steve made himself as much a student as the rest of us, mostly sitting and listening. However, he would interject at certain points, offering his thoughts on why certain pieces of Anishinabe belief were not only in agreement with Christianity, but could flesh out some of the aspects that were neglected in evangelical Western circles – the relationship of man to creation, for example, or the communal side of purpose in life. His perspective was consistently orthodox, and yet was neither critical nor judgmental; I found this very helpful in understanding and accepting what Marcel shared with us.
As musicians, we of course shared songs – Steve playing two of his, HtH singing a few (including a hastily learned arrangement of Steve’s “Peace Prayer”), and all of us singing “Wings of an Eagle,” as well as Marcel singing two Anishinabe songs for us. Steve and Torri spent some time talking shop afterwards, discussing the possibility of a collaboration in the future. In addition, two people who later attended one of our Winnipeg concerts found out about it because of a posting on Steve’s Facebook page. Again, it felt like all of this was just the sort of person Steve was – that he’s truly interested in promoting other musicians and causes, and that people matter to him. I, for one, was quite touched by him spending the day with us, and I hope HtH will cross paths with him again.