The Regina Symphony Orchestra’s Forward Currents Festival took place this past weekend at the beautiful Mâmawêyatitân Centre. The theme this year was Music & Mental Health, and the festival featured three evenings full of music, talks, ballet, art, and spoken word, all with the intent of inspiring conversation about mental illness and mental wellness.

Each evening, there was a pre-concert talk, featuring speakers from UnderstandUs and The Schizophrenia Society of Saskatchewan, but the conversations carried on into the concert portions too. Musical performances, like those by Steven Page and Dan Innes, were interspersed with the performers' personal stories about how mental illness affected them and how they coped and overcame. Composer Jocelyn Morlock shared bits of her story as well as those of others who inspired her compositions—including the incredibly moving My Name is Amanda Todd, which dealt with cyber bullying and suicide. 

In keeping with the intimate, conversational tone of the festival, the concerts were held in the common room of the Mâmawêyatitân, with the audience wrapped tightly around the stage. Where usually you’d go to see the Orchestra play at the Conexus Arts Centre and observe from your faraway seat in the dark auditorium, these shows were up close and personal, with the house lights on and the members of the orchestra so close you could reach out and touch them. It felt fitting—and remarkably special.