Alumni Excellence Award: Mysterious Barricades | Work of Arts
Alumni Excellence Award: Mysterious Barricades | Work of Arts

Alumni Excellence Award: Mysterious Barricades

by | September 8, 2017
Photography by Harold Hornig
Elizabeth Turnbull turned her grief into hope for those with mental illness

Mental illness is something that affects just about everyone, either directly or indirectly, but we often refrain from discussing it. The stigma surrounding mental health is something Elizabeth Turnbull (’84 BMus), voice instructor in the Department of Music, wishes to change through the power of music.

In 2015, Turnbull lost her husband to mental illness. As the anniversary of his passing approached, she felt a desire to do something to lift her spirits and honour his memory. She knew almost instantly the only thing she wanted was to hear her friends make music. But with her friends spread across the country, it would be impossible to gather them all together for a performance. This complication led to inspiration for an 18 hour, 13 city concert. But the ideas didn’t stop there.

Turnbull wanted a song to be played at all 13 concerts as a way of connecting them, so she chose Baroque composer François Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses. She revealed this was one of her husband’s favorite songs to play and that he had learned to play it without using any sheet music. However, after this song was chosen, Turnbull realized the name “Mysterious Barricades” was significant in terms of mental health.

“Mysterious barricades” symbolizes the indefinite grey area separating mental health from mental illness. 

For Turnbull, “mysterious barricades” symbolizes the indefinite grey area separating mental health from mental illness. It’s what occurs in this grey area, where someone transitions from being healthy to unwell, that people are reluctant to talk about because they feel it somehow signifies failure. However, Turnbull believes that many of the negative connotations associated with mental illness stem from the language used to discuss it. For example, when we talk about suicide we often use “committed” as a descriptor, but we wouldn’t say that someone “committed” a heart attack.

Turnbull strongly believes that mental illness should be dealt with in a similar fashion because it is just that: an illness. This is one of the many issues she hopes to address with the Mysterious Barricades concerts, through creating a safe and open environment where people feel free to talk about their mental health.

Turnbull received the Alumni Excellence Award this year for her work in initiating and directing this meaningful event. This is an award that she gladly accepts because it means her cause is receiving both recognition and validation. This September 10 — World Suicide Prevention Day — please contribute to creating a world open to discussing mental health.


Last year's Mysterious Barricades concert in Edmonton

Last year’s Mysterious Barricades concert in Edmonton

Mysterious Barricades Concert
Sunday, September 10
Time: 6:30-8 p.m.
Location: Convocation Hall, University of Alberta


Click here to register for Edmonton’s Mysterious Barricades concert.

Banner image: Turnbull and Laurier Fagnan, is the Vice President of the Mysterious Barricades organization.


This article first appeared on Curious Arts.


Know another inspiring UAlberta grad? Nominate them for a 2018 Alumni Award. Deadline is Dec 15, 2017.

Watch our alumni award winners accept their honours at the Alumni Awards ceremony on Monday, Sept. 25 at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium. Reserve your free ticket at


Filed under: Alumni, Features
Tagged with: , , , , ,

About Kim Bricker

Kim is a student at the U of A, happily pursuing a degree in English and Art and Design. Her love for the arts is very similar to her love for her cat; she insists on sharing it with others regardless whether they actually asked.