Irwin


Irwin1 passed away recently. We knew it was coming, but it still came as a shock - he seemed to be doing so well. He’d beaten it once before, but it came back years later. Fuck. Fuck everything about cancer. Every. Thing.

I made a donation to his memorial scholarship fund at TRU2. I wish I’d had the chance / made the effort to get to know him better. I only had the chance to hang out with him (in person) a handful of times, but he was obviously an amazing, generous, funny, creative, open, playful, and gracious human and I can only aspire to be a fraction of what he was.

My fave memory of Irwin was when he and Brian were passing through YYC to go to some conference somewhere, and they asked me to give them a reason to leave the airport for a few hours. We headed downtown, had breakfast at the vintage 1886 Buffalo Cafe3, and saluted Queen Shit of SoTL™ (where we were all laughing so hard I was afraid we were going to get kicked out of the place) before heading to the (then-recently-opened) Studio Bell National Music Centre4.

Irwin and Brian at NMCIrwin and Brian at NMC

We saw some cool music stuff, and Irwin played on one of the coolest looking pianos5 I’ve seen. Brian shared some more bits from that in a beautiful tribute post.

Alan and Brian have shared what Irwin meant to them. He was one of those special connectors and amplifiers. Everyone he cared about felt like they were better because of it, and he was able to lift entire communities through this gift. Quietly, without fanfare, just connecting and amplifying and making people feel like they had something to share.


  1. He’d also published some albums on Bandcamp ↩︎

  2. If you try to donate, don’t use Safari because the form silently fails and calls it a “billing error”. Use a different browser and it should work fine. Best viewed in Internet Explorer 5. ↩︎

  3. in the original location, before all of the Green Line construction refactored the Eau Claire district. The place survived almost 140 years, but it’s “permanently closed” now. (I would not be surprised if the building finds a new location and opens again when the dust settles) ↩︎

  4. where, ironically, we got to experience some public interactive exhibits that were strongly SoTL-workshop-inspired, with post-it notes and stuff that would feel right at home in a workshop on campus… ↩︎

  5. a Siegler suspension something-er-other piano. I forget what the plaque said. Used by someone famous, probably. One of the pianos in that room was Elton John’s. Maybe this one? Whatever. It’ll always be Irwin’s piano to me. ↩︎

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