Musical gifts sent from the universe

October 2, 2016

All good music — no matter the genre — lifts us out of our day-to-day journey through life to excite and inspire us in some way. It can be anywhere from getting our ‘mojo on’ to sweet children’s music to helping our spirit soar.

Sacred music makes us realize or remember we do have a spirit and helps it pick us up from the inside out. This is the way it helps heals us.

People who excel in performing this type of music are usually ‘filled with light’. There is something special about them that we know is there even though we cannot ‘put our finger on’ exactly what it is.

The music brings a stillness to inside the performer and those who are absorbing what he or she is performing. It is like meditation or, some would say, is meditation.

This story is about one such performer:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, December 8, 1999

Musical gifts sent from the universe

by Tanya Lester

Barry Livingston’s sacred musical journey last Saturday may well be remembered as “the” event of the holiday season on Salt Spring.

Beginning with a Chanukah candle lighting led by Sid and Sharada Filkow, Livingston presented eight musical pieces. Seven were composed for piano by him in the last month and another by percussionist Laurent Boucher, who accompanied Livingston for the evening.

Some of the 50 people who gathered at Salt Spring Centre (SSC) to be part of the sacred healing journey were a bit hesitant at first to respond to Livingston’s invitation to dance and sing while he played.

The taboo of “not interacting with a concert pianist” had to be broken.

Livingston explained he chose SSC as his venue, instead of ArtSpring, so those attending would feel free to move around.

He is a classically trained jazz musician whose primary interest is now the healing aspects of sound and music.

His transition into honouring the sacred aspect of music evolved after a personal crisis he experienced in 1994 during which he did not play music for a year.

This was a major fork in life’s road for Livingston, who started taking classical piano lessons at eight years old.

“I was sensitive to sound at a very early age,” he said during an interview last week.

One of Livingston’s earliest memories is of being lifted up so he could press down on the piano keys in his family’s home in Hamilton, Ontario.

He was quick to point out that this does not mean he was a child prodigy. “I’ve had to work very hard at music,” Livingston said.

Neither of Livingston’s parents, who were in the retail business, are musically inclined but Livingston grew up listening to the music his two older brothers liked to put on the turntable.

One brother in particular encouraged Livingston in his music but still, by the time he was 14, he wanted to quit. It was an enthusiastic music teacher who made him decide to continue.

Livingston went on to attend a national music camp where he found himself with peers for the first time. “Up to that point I thought jazz was the domain of old black men,” he said.

At 17, Livingston attended the summer program at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. “There was community feeling…great chemistry,” he said. “There was no one person who was a star so we were in a position to help each other out.”

By the time he was in Grade 13, he was taking lessons from a man who had studied at Berkley College in Boston. Livingston was playing in a jazz band that played Top-40 tunes, including Michael Jackson hits.

Livingston took first year in music at Mohawk College where he found himself in third-year level courses.

It was here that Livingston encountered a teacher who asked him, “What’s your dream? What does your heart feel?”

Livingston did not continue at Mohawk because many who took the program were motivated to do so in order to join bands and he was already doing that.

He got a general arts degree instead at the University of Toronto. In 1984, he landed right in the middle of a creative renaissance in Toronto. In 1984, he landed right in the middle of a creative renaissance in Toronto where the best from all over the country were congregated.

Livingston played in a jazz band conducted by Phil Nimmons.

“He was the one who got us to push all our edges,” Livingston said.

Nimmons knew Livingston was terrified about playing solo piano so he got him to go ahead and do it.

Livingston started to work with all kinds of renowned musicians whose music he had listened to for years.

In 1989, he took a jazz intensive at the Banff centre of the Arts (BCA) and started to get the “bigger picture” of what music can be when a master drummer named Abraham Adzenyah worked with Livingston and his colleagues at BCA.

Livingston became familiar with how music is used by healers in other cultures and how musicians in those places are integrated into the community, with none having start status.

“There is no musician-audience separation.”

There is also integration with the natural world, according to Livingston, who used as an example some Indian music in which different keys are associated with different times of day to be in harmony with the day’s natural progression.

Livingston said he is now focussing on sacred healing music because this is where his personal growth and training has taken him.

He is interested in putting a communal form of ritual back into music.

Not surprisingly, one of his most recent mentors is Ann Mortifee, whom he collaborated with recently at Hollyhock retreat centre on Cortez Island.

Last Saturday marked Livingston’s first local performance of original music in over two years.

He moved to Salt Spring five years ago after liivng in Vancouver.

The West Coast seduced him with its beauty while he was touring with a Jewish jazz band.

On Saturday he joked about a band he was in back east where all of its members dressed in burgundy and played a lot of Polish weddings.

The audience loosened up as he went from a piece called Walking in a Garden, inspired by the one at Hollyhock, to Joy to Hymn to Abundance which he said is one of a millennial hymn series he is composing.

Livingston asked June Bender to lead the singing and Anna Haltrecht to lead the spiral dance which everyone participated in at the end of the evening.

He asked participants to sing lyrics and to be open to receiving “the most beautiful gifts from the universe” and “the most beautiful gifts from earth.”

He told everyone to think about two things we need in our lives.

The gifts given that night were to ourselves.

This is Livingston’s desire. To use music as a way to explore the sacred in us.

Livingston has gone many places with his music and now his musical path is leading him within.


Tanya is also a psychic, specializing in tea leaf and tarot readings as well as a reiki master and a fulltime house sitter. Her web site is at and she has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. You can read more of her posts at or  Contact her directly at or at her cell phone number which is 250-538-0086.

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