ROUND LAKE CENTRE – An unlikely partnership has resulted in two CDs and thousands of dollars in donations to charities that will benefit people worldwide.
Fr. Jamie Utronkie, born and raised in the Round Lake area and Karen Smith of Nova Scotia have released their sophomore album, entitled Still Imagining.
“It’s an interesting crossing of boundaries because you normally wouldn’t see that type of dynamic – a priest and a secretary recording music together,” Fr. Utronkie said, speaking from his home parish on December 5.
After Utronkie was ordained in Ottawa, he was appointed to a parish near Halifax. Today, Utronkie works as the associate pastor at Holy Trinity of the Cross Parish, a unit of three churches serving 6,300 registered parishioners in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.
It is where he met Smith, a secretary at the parish. Father would play the piano to unwind. Smith could hear him play from her office and eventually dropped by and started singing alongside the priest.
Music has always been a part of Father’s life.
“Day by day I am dealing with addictions, abuse and violence; all kinds of heavy problems that people come to me with,” he said.
Music is a natural way to unwind, he explained.
“It’s just a way to help me stay engaged in my commitments as a priest, because we need to get our energy from somewhere,” he said.
Both Smith and Father have strong musical roots. Smith’s dad was from Cape Breton and Utronkie, of course, is from the Ottawa Valley and is related to many musicians in the area.
A songwriter for many years, Smith wrote some secular music in the 1980s. One of her songs, I Can’t Imagine, a tune about relationship issues, became the foundation of the duo’s albums.
“What I decided to do was I sat down with her and we sort of Christianized it,” Father said.
While there are no religious references in the revamped song, which debuted on the first album, Imagining you Everywhere, it can be interpreted in a religious way.
“It doesn’t have to be about God because the name of God is not mentioned,” Fr. Utronkie said. “For someone listening to it, it could be about anything.”
What makes the partnership work, Fr. Utronkie said, is both songwriters bring a special talent to the table.
“[Smith is] actually better doing melodies, whereas the actual writing lyrically, most of that I would do,” Father said. “She can pick out a tune better than I could.”
The inaugural Catholic easy listening CD was hastily created in Round Lake Centre, Father admitted. However, the product turned out quite well.
The duo ordered 1,000 CDs, “with some hesitation,” Father explained.
Read more in the December 11, 2013 issue of The Valley Gazette.