A father and son find connection beyond words.

Joshua Hill says he and his dad, Greg, are the “creative sheep” in their family, so it is fitting that music has helped them find connection and healing, beyond words.

After Greg, 73, was diagnosed with dementia in 2020, Hill, a Los Angeles-based Canadian Screen Award-winning multi-media artist, began to invite his father into musical conversations to overcome long-standing barriers to connection arising from Greg’s experiences with depression, bipolar disorder and eventually dementia.

“Making music with my dad has offered me a path towards forgiveness and acceptance and ultimately brought my family closer together,” says Hill. “I’m so grateful for the time and adventures we’ve had the last few years.”

A poignant illustration of their ongoing musical conversation is a short film created by Hill as he began to document the post-diagnosis time of change within his family. In the video, Hill gently invites Greg into a very special form of co-creation and communication by asking over and over, “What would you say, if you had a song to sing?”

Greg and Joshua Hill performing at Song Cycle.

Through masterful call, response and repetition, Hill enables his dad to communicate thoughts and feelings that have both personal and universal meaning. During the process, Greg appears to connect deeply within himself, and even to abstractly consider issues of integrity versus despair, the psychosocial conflict suggested by psychologist Erik Erikson to be the final stage of human development, questioning whether the individual has led a meaningful life.

Greg and Joshua Hill

“Only right here, only right here, we’ll be alright now,” sings Greg. “Nothing to see, nothing to be, but alright now.” — Sound advice for every life stage.

Don’t miss this powerful and touching short film filled with beautiful music and words that will stay with you long after viewing. The film, What Would You Say? (If You Had a Song to Sing), was made with support from California Humanities, is part of an ongoing multimedia project called Song Cycle and can be viewed for free at the link below.

Be sure to stay to the end to learn what Greg thinks about the co-creation process.