The concert at Upstairs seen in the documentary

Claire beams during her 2011 show at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill in Montreal. In the Key of Claire. © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Claire beams during her 2011 show at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill in Montreal. In the Key of Claire. © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Barbara Lewis shared the stage with Claire during a 2011 show at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill in Montreal. In the Key of Claire. © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Barbara Lewis shared the stage with Claire during a 2011 show at Upstairs Jazz Bar and Grill in Montreal. In the Key of Claire. © 2014 Arcady Productions.

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South African jazz legend Thandi Klassen

South African jazz legend Thandi Klassen appears in the documentary. Here she chats with Anne Henderson between takes in 2011.  In the key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

South African jazz legend Thandi Klassen appears in the documentary. Here she chats with Anne Henderson between takes in 2011. In the key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

South African jazz legend Thandi Klassen appears in the documentary. Here she chats with pianist Chad Linsley between takes in 2011.  In the key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

South African jazz legend Thandi Klassen appears in the documentary. Here she chats with pianist Chad Linsley between takes in 2011. In the key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

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Short version of In the Key of Claire on CBC

This story appeared originally on the CBC web site on August 1,2014. We reprint it here with thanks.

A social worker at the MUHC HIV Clinic learns to sing despite the onset of deafness and cancer, and brings together survivors of the Rwandan genocide to collaborate in a powerful performance. © 2014 Arcady Films

A social worker at the MUHC HIV Clinic learns to sing despite the onset of deafness and cancer, and brings together survivors of the Rwandan genocide to collaborate in a powerful performance. © 2014 Arcady Films

Healing power of music Documentary airs as part of Absolutely Quebec series

By Carrie Haber, CBC News Posted: Aug 01, 2014 6:17 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 01, 2014 6:17 AM ET

When filmmaker Anne Henderson decided to make a documentary about Claire Duchesneau, a hearing-impaired social worker who strives to rediscover her singing voice, she was not prepared for events to unfold for the worse.

The production took an unpleasant turn early in the schedule when Duchesneau was diagnosed with cancer. Henderson decided to continue shooting, and spent four years documenting Duchesneau’s complex struggle with illness and encroaching deafness as her protagonist persevered to record an album and perform live.

Claire Duchesneau in In the Key of Claire: ‘I would survive through music. That if I could just sing, I would feel whole again.’ The film is an intimate telling of what it means to negotiate with one’s own far-reaching, uncertain goals. Along her difficult journey, Duchesneau carves space for humour, writing her own cancer jokes to alleviate her suffering.

Claire and Erin departing for Rwanda

Claire and Erin departing for Rwanda

She confronts hearing loss by learning to read vibrations for intonation, and restores her strength through continuous singing practice. Recognizing that her HIV-positive clients at the MUHC’s Montreal Chest Institute might also benefit from this outlet, she invites the asylum-seekers from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda — including several survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide — to record with her. The result brings the notion of resilience into sharp focus for Duchesneau.

Through its frank treatment of one woman’s four-year struggle, In The Key of Claire explores how music nurtures the healing process, and how a well-timed “butt joke” can do wonders to lift the darkness during troubled times.

The documentary airs Saturday, Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. as part of the Absolutely Quebec series.

The Big Night

Anne Henderson beams as In the Key of Claire is finally presented to an audience after four years of work. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Anne Henderson beams as In the Key of Claire opens in Montreal. © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Balcony view of the premiere. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Films.

Balcony view of the premiere. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Films.

Cinematographer Richard Burman entertains the audience at the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Cinematographer Richard Burman entertains the audience at the premiere of In the Key of Claire. © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Onstage for the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Onstage for the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy of the MUHC presents flowers to Claire at the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions

Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy of the MUHC presents flowers to Claire at the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions

Cinematographer Richard Burman, joins Claire, Erin, Barbaran and Anne at the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Richard, Claire, Erin, Barbara and Anne at the premiere of In the Key of Claire. In the Key of Claire © 2014 Arcady Productions.

Synopsis of the Film

Claire Duchesneau is a social worker at the HIV clinic of the McGill University Chest Hospital.  She is also a talented amateur singer who discovers first-hand the extraordinary benefits of singing when facing adversity and loss. Claire uses music to transcend both her own personal hardships and those of her clients, asylum seekers from war-torn areas of Africa.

Interweaving intimate sequences with her vocal coach, well-known singer Barbara Lewis, with scenes in the oncology ward of the Montreal General Hospital, in the recording studio, at the Upstairs Jazz Bar, in the HIV clinic, and at a family cottage on Lake MacDonald, the film celebrates the human voice as an expression of the life force within. For Claire’s HIV patients, survivors of genocide and rape, singing is a way for them to reclaim their silenced voices and rediscover joy.

In the vast repertoire of musical expression, the human voice is the one instument we all share. We were born to sing.

In the Key of Claire Poster

Anne Henderson

Philippe & Anne copywith DOP Philippe Lavalette in the Globe Theatre, London

Anne Henderson has been writing and directing documentary films for over 30 years.

She prefers character-driven stories with a strong narrative arc. She is the recipient of a Genie Award, two Hot Docs Awards, a Gemini, as well as various international film prizes. Apart from her latest film In the Key of Claire, Anne has directed Battle of Wills,  the story of an enigmatic 17th century painting with an unproven claim to be the only image of Shakespeare painted from life.  Other titles include Water Marks, a film about murdered west coast poet Pat Lowther;  The Road from Kampuchea, a portrait of the Cambodian landmine survivor who became the 1999 Nobel Peace Laureate; A Song for Tibet, the moving story of a family divided by war and exile; and Holding Our Ground, a study of a squatter community in the Philippines where the women take control of their destinies. She has also directed several series for television, including Women: A True Story – narrated by Susan Sarandon, The Human Race by journalist Gwynne Dyer, and  Dogs With Jobs, the popular series on working dogs. Anne is a member of the Writers Guild of Canada and has served as jury chair and jury member for numerous film awards committees.

She makes her home in the midst of Montreal’s vibrant arts community.

Skinner jpeg

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Backstory

Singer and vocal coach Barbara Lewis. © Barbara Lewis

Singer and vocal coach Barbara Lewis. © Barbara Lewis

Barbara Lewis  is a well-known performer and vocal coach who works with mature as well as young singers. About five years ago, Barbara embarked on a coaching program with Claire  Duchesneau, an amateur singer who is significantly hearing-impaired. Their musical journey became the catalyst for filmmaker Anne Henderson’s documentary In the Key of Claire. For four years, Barbara has nourished, as well as performed with her special student, and a deep bond has evolved. The film shows Barbara in concert, revealing her wonderful vocal range and interpretations.