A Calgary-based musician, painter and broadcaster is working to shed the light of life and faith in the realm of the arts.
Scott Kelly recently released his debut music CD 70 X 7, is working on another album of original music, has paintings in Calgary’s Collector’s Gallery and Cochrane, Alta.’s Westlands Art Gallery and hosts a weekly Catholic radio program on Calgary station CHRB 1140 AM. It’s all part of his mission to be an authentic witness and present the Christian faith in a way that tears down walls and stereotypes.
“I was inspired by this whole idea of: I have this gift,” he says. “You can’t bury your talents. If you’ve got a gift, you’ve got to use it.” The exhortations of the late Pope John Paul II to take part in a new evangelization also encouraged him, he adds.
His relationship with the arts began in the musical field during the 1970s, when, he says, “I just wanted to have a guitar in my hand.” Like so many teenagers during that era, he wanted to play, entertain people and take part in the “revolutionary” environment in which the music scene was immersed.
By the 1980s, he was dabbling with some of the more professional aspects of music, such as recording promotional jingles and the like. “Eventually, I got called to join a group and played in what would be called an alternative group. We were together for years … I started to write a lot music.”
He started attending the University of Calgary to work on a degree in fine arts and continued to hone his overall sense of being creative and producing something original. Through it all, faith played a negligible role in his life.
“Eventually, my conversion really started to kick in,” he says. “I was leaning more and more toward expressing Christianity in the music. Eventually, I totally had to drop the whole band. I think the last words I said to the drummer were, ‘I’ve got to go find God’ … I wasn’t lifting people up. I was basically a soundtrack for debauchery.”
In starting to attend daily Mass and joining the Catholic charismatic movement in 1990, Kelly realized his guitar could become a powerful tool for God’s work. “All these songs kept coming and coming. I started to record and write.”
Meeting up with music producer Demetrio Navarro, Kelly set the wheels in motion for what would become the album 70 X 7. “It took about three years of weekly sessions with a six-month break. It was original, trying to get the Scriptures in there and my own personal experience from the heart. I became so involved with music, I would dream songs.”
The album was released just before last Christmas and, as promised, featured 16 songs written from the heart and soul, including the track “Let ’Em Breathe,” which was dedicated to the pro-life cause.
“Can you see me? Can you see me?” read the lyrics. “I’m living here in this silent place. Can you hear me? Can you hear me? I’ve got no choice. I’ve got no voice. Can you feel me? Can you feel me? I’ve got a soul, a song in this secret place.”
“Let ’em breathe – give them a chance,” he explains about the song. “It’s a very urgent song because it’s a very urgent issue … More and more, as I reflected on the whole issue of abortion, I realized this is so horrendous an evil, most people can’t comprehend it. They kind of sweep it under the rug.”
About the composition of the song, Kelly says it came to him during a long highway journey. “I had an insight … of how every child is such a gift from the Father … Their lives are being snuffed out … It’s almost like an institutionalized sin against the Holy Spirit … I hope (the song) will have a consciousness-raising impact of some kind. I think (abortion) is the central issue of modern times.”
Pro-life has certainly been a central issue for Kelly over the years. He was a fixture at demonstrations outside local abortuaries before bubble-zone laws severely restricted any kind of pro-life activity in the vicinity of such sites.
“I’m strongly pro-life and pro-Humanae Vitae,” he said, referring to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on human life. “I believe that was a prophetic document that I wish people would take more seriously as a gift.”
Apart from his pro-life message, Kelly hopes his music will touch the many who are confused about the meaning of life. Ironically, he says, secular music has played a big part in leading them astray in the first place.
“I’ve put the challenge in the music … There’s an other-worldly message there. There’s a challenge that hopefully will give hope because there’s so much angst and despair floating around these days … Engage the world in season and out of season with everything you’ve got. People relate to art and music … People connect. The walls come down.”
Of his painting, Kelly says it began as more of a hobby before evolving into something that has become a way to help him support his family, which includes wife Deborah and children Eric and Hannah. His radio program, meanwhile, began some six years ago as a response to misinformation he heard being spread about the Catholic church.
“So I felt like, ‘Where’s the Catholic voice?’ I ended up getting on the radio once a week, trying to promote the faith.” Correcting errors, providing solid orthodox teaching and presenting the Catholic faith appealingly, warmly and with humour are just some of the goals he strives for with the program, which is called Immaculate Heart Radio and airs Saturdays at 9 p.m.
The near future promises the release of a second album of original music and possibly some touring in the U.S. “I just hope the folks can make a joyful noise to the Lord with this music,” he says.
More information on Kelly is available at his website: www.scottkellyartist.com.