What is Mysterious Barricades?

We are the Mysterious Barricades Concert Society, organizing an annual series of cross-Canada concerts for suicide awareness, prevention, and hope. Every year in September, we host live concerts performed in a variety of cities across Canada featuring many of the country’s finest professionally trained musicians and performers.

These concerts are then streamed as a coast-to-coast sunrise-to-sunset cross-Canada concert. This year, the live concerts are being held between September 5 and September 14, and the day-long event is taking place on September 14. All concerts are free to attend; the video-stream is free to enjoy online and will remain posted through September 21.

+ Why are we here?

According to the World Health Organization, someone around the globe is killed by suicide every 40 seconds, and more than double the number of people die by suicide than as a direct result of armed conflict. We find this alarming, and in many ways, preventable.

This series of concerts will raise awareness of the mysterious barricades that exist between mental illness and health. We are using music as a way to open pathways to meaningful discourse on difficult subjects such as suicide and mental illness. In concerts, we bring together people who celebrate life and hope, with artists who believe that music is a visceral, deeply healing, and connective force that unites and transforms.

+ How did it all start?

It all started on September 15, 2015, when, after struggling with stress and anxiety for over 20 years, Elizabeth Turnbull’s husband died by suicide. Elizabeth, a professional opera singer and an instructor of voice in the Department of Music at the University of Alberta, had fought the disease of mental illness alongside her husband for all those years. In her grief, Elizabeth vowed to make a difference and was determined to create a platform for dialogue about health and suicide, using the language of music to offer hope and encouragement. Thus, she created Mysterious Barricades.

Our first concert was on September 10, 2016, the internationally recognized World Suicide Prevention Day.

+ Our name.

Les Barricades Mystérieuses was always playing in Elizabeth Turnbull’s home because it was her husband’s favourite piece of music. When he died by suicide in 2015, the idea for the concert flashed through Elizabeth’s mind, as a way to find healing through the music of her fellow musicians, and to celebrate the life of a man she loved and admired.

Fittingly, Mysterious Barricades is an apt description of mental illness—it is strangely unknown and it is fraught with unending obstacles. The beauty of the piece of music is in both its nuanced delicacy and its unapologetic force.

+ Our reach.

Over the past three years approximately 3,800 people have attended the Mysterious Barricades live events and over 11,000 people have viewed the video stream. There have been a range of performances from solos to 50-voice choirs.

Each year has involved more than 150 musical performances and the participation of more than 300 performers. We have hosted 41 concerts over the previous three years, and we will host 15 more in 2019.

Our Impact.

[…] My immediate family have dealt with concerns surrounding mental illness. [....] This set of concerts […] goes a long way towards lifting the shadow and stigma off mental health challenges, and offers support, acceptance and beauty, which will uplift and inspire both those dealing with such concerns and those helping them. […]
— R.A.D. from Edmonton
[…] The only time I was not listening today was when I was teaching singing lessons this morning and when I was in the crisis clinic with my thirteen-year-old daughter talking to a counsellor […] about the shadows (her words) that tell her to hurt herself and that she shouldn’t be on the earth anymore. What an incredible community and what an incredible, hope-inspiring event. Thank you again - it was a source of incredible strength for me today.
— S.
After my husband and business partner died 5 years ago, I was unable to listen to any baroque music, or perform. This past month I have done both. The “Barricades mystérieuses” […] was the first time I listened, really listened to a baroque piece, in five years. I cried. The spell has been broken. Thank you.
— B.Z. from Toronto
[…] Thank you for helping raise awareness! I’ve been affected myself by this in my family and I hope (I KNOW!) that all this beautiful music will help to heal and preserve the preciousness of people’s lives!
— N.H. from Camrose
Beth, […] What an incredible thing you set in motion. I cannot tell you what a powerful resonance your initiative has had, what healing, what conversations it has begun. Thank you so much for including me, all of us. […] So much help, love, healing. You have done so much good. Thank you!
— K.B.
I want people at risk of suicide to know how much their lives matter to us, and that we as a country and a community wish for the stigma of mental illness to become a thing of the past. To become more open and accepting of mental illness, a substantial conversation must take place. I want to herald in that conversation with music—loud, glorious, positive and far-reaching, deeply reverberating and connective.
— Elizabeth Turnbull, Co-founder & President of Mysterious Barricades

The Spirit of our Concerts