Author Archive

18 Oct 2013

Welcome to Ecotone

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August 2018

*** Please scroll down here for the latest Ecotone news and projects ***

Feet in Dixie, Head in the Cool Blue North. The Echotones are an intimate cabaret-style group of Toronto-based artists who bring fresh interpretations to the work of great songwriters. Our new show features Jesse Winchester’s graceful melodies, vivid images and stories that leave traces in the heart long after the music fades. Our performance of Jesse Winchester’s fine songs played to a full house at the Free Times Café last month, and we took the show to the beautiful Loft theatre in Cobourg August 21.

Here is our arrangement of ‘Talk Memphis’.

If you would like to receive notice of our gigs please let me know! To view videos of my band, the Echotones, scroll down here.


Photo and design: Tim Wilson

Rebel Angel is a portrait documentary about influential scholar, art critic and educator Ross Woodman (1922-2014). In essence, it is an inquiry into the dynamic tension between art and religion, through the prism of Woodman’s extraordinary character. The film will explore Woodman’s important role as a collector, critic and friend of many of London, Ontario’s most significant artists and poets in the 60s and 70s.

I first met Woodman when I was a student at Western almost 40 years ago. His pure artistry as a lecturer made him unforgettable, life changing. Later, in 1981-82 he helped me and John Walker to make the award-winning portrait documentary about his friend Jack Chambers, Tracks and Gestures. Now I have come full circle and Woodman is the subject of a film. He was among the most influential Canadian art critics of the 20th century, an internationally recognized iconoclast in the field of English Romantic literature, a scholar of the Baha’i faith in relation to the history of art and the variety of religious experience, and a passionately original interpreter of Jung and Freud in the context of world literature and religious texts. To see the trailer and find out more, please visit rosswoodmanfilm

The film is partly funded by grants and donations, produced in association with the London and Middlesex Historical Society, a registered charity. Estimated release date, May 2019.

Art Review

Northern Alchemy

Rucklidge, Andrew. The Last Sheets. 2017, 38 x 54 inches, oil and egg tempera on toned gessoed panel

Web Series

The Ecotone web series about international relations, science diplomacy, and digital diplomacy, Guerilla Diplomacy with former Canadian diplomat, Professor Daryl Copeland, is currently featured on a number of international sites including these:

EUCLID University What is Diplomacy?

International Channels for Diplomacy Digital Diplomacy: The Power of Attraction

Music Recordings and Videos

My band, the Echotones, performs shows that focus on singer-songwriters like Randy Newman, Tom Waits and Jesse Winchester (coming soon). For a quick reminder of the quality of both Waits’ melodies and his lyrics, check out these recordings from one of our recent concerts:
Tom Traubert’s Blues

All The World Is Green

Music video from Invitation to the Blues: The Songs of Tom Waits — Chris Lowry sings with the Echotones: Tom Melville on keyboards, Daniel Kölsch on sax and clarinet, and Will Melville on guitar, mandolin and vocal harmony.
Videography by Jana Gracia.

Exotic Tastes, Book Review

Taste of Persia: A Cook’s Travels Through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Kurdistan.

Photo memoir Book


This photo book is a memoir of travels in the mountains of Afghanistan in 1977, looking at the beauty and dignity of this extraordinary country “before the rain of fire”. It was at the end of a long period of peace, just a few months before a coup d’etat that triggered the ongoing armed conflict.

Please preview the book (hardcover on Amazon or ebook on

Proceeds from book sales will benefit the work of War Child Canada in Afghanistan and other war-torn countries.

Special Price $70 including Toronto delivery if you order direct from Ecotone ($18 less than Amazon, and more money goes directly to War Child!)

Here is the French version on Amazon too.

“I was blown away by the book. Searing and powerful memories… Brilliant story, wonderful photos!
—David Edwards, former Canadian diplomat

Chris Lowry’s photos and narrative do not pretend to offer an explanation and analysis of all this war and repression, but they challenge the viewer and reader to re-assess “Afghanistan” and its people and landscapes, as if seeing and considering them clearly for the first time.”
Grahame Russell, international human rights lawyer, Founder/Director of the NGO, Rights Action

New article in Western News and the Alumni Gazette:

Alumnus to explore life of ‘Rebel Angel’


Ecotone is developing a prototype for the game DeepCity with new partners, Wero Creative and OCADU Digitial Futures GamePlay Lab.

DeepCity is a strategy game for PC/Mac set in a strange, fascinating future. Your Goal: Survive. Defend. Regenerate.
Think Tamagotchi meets SimCity meets Civilization and you get the core of DeepCity. The game world is shaped through actions that allow a user to explore prospective futures of energy and carbon, extreme weather and social unrest, infrastructure and mobility, as well as resources such as food and water. DeepCity deals with a climate-changed habitat similar to Mad Max with a bizarre internet-influenced twist. This allows a game that is a set in a dark world to have a light look and feel (similar to Adventure Time). Scenarios in the game will be updated based on trends within internet culture for a sense of humour and cultural touchstones. It simulates how an urban regional (eco)system in the near future could regenerate and thrive or fail in adversity.



GOLDTOOTH, a cartoon about street kids and drugs, is the sequel to the HIV/AIDS education cartoon for street kids, KARATE KIDS. Thanks to the efforts of animator Kai Pindal and other friends, the NFB has generously agreed to digitize GOLDTOOTH and stream it on the NFB site. Produced in 1989 and 1991, these award-winning films continue to be used by educators around the world and I am proud to have worked on both projects as co-Producer and Executive Producer during my tenure as Director of Communications and co-founder of Street Kids International.

Karate Kids, Derek Lamb, provided by the National Film Board of Canada


My interpretation of Cohen’s Song of Bernadette has attracted almost 5,000 (!) views on YouTube:

and… from our Songs of Randy Newman performance (Tom Melville on piano):

Shows focused on songwriters to date:

Bob Dylan — 3 different repertoires (2014, 2015, 2017) Bill Gilliam on piano
Leonard Cohen (2015) Bill Gilliam piano, Julie DiSensi and Diane Niec, backup vocals
Randy Newman (2016) Tom Melville on piano
Tom Waits (2017) Tom Melville piano, Daniel Kölsch sax, Will Melville guitar


John Berger, the art critic and artist, looking at a painting of Aesop by the great Velazquez, says that he identifies “with his skepticism which is never cynical – The storyteller – not the novelist, not the fashionable literary creator – Often nomadic – A traveller who goes from place to place and tells stories that he has lived, or that he is making up – A traveller who is completely free from institutions.”

What a beautiful description of Bob Dylan.

Here is one of those long, song poems, of which Tom Waits said “It is like Beowulf and it ‘takes me out to the meadow’. This song can make you leave home, work on the railroad or marry a Gypsy. I think of a drifter around a fire with a tin cup under a bridge remembering a woman’s hair. The song is a dream, a riddle and a prayer.”

With your mercury mouth in the missionary times,
And your eyes like smoke and your prayers like rhymes,
And your silver cross, and your voice like chimes,
Who do they think could bury you?

Here are some more of our arrangements of Dylan music, with Bill Gilliam on the piano:

Girl From The North Country
Love Minus Zero (No Limits)
Frankie Lee and Judas Priest


Here’s a piece I published in the Journal of Wild Culture online, The War On… Scarcity—a PDF version for your summer reading! Steal this book – compliments of Ecotone.

Lowry – War on Scarcity

I was Senior Editor of the original Journal of Wild Culture, and I am delighted to be part of the new digital JWC.

Ecology and imagination, irreverence and mischief.


I have uploaded my album, Chris Lowry (The Road Back Home) produced with local music legend David Woodhead, now available for you to download from Bandcamp.

To order the CD for $20 please email

If you’re looking for any of my work, you can find a lot of it here. Browse articles about my experiences with organizations such as Green Enterprise Toronto, Médecins Sans Frontières and Street Kids International, video clips from cartoons and docs that I have produced, or listen to some music.


Home page photostream, photos by Chris Lowry


24 May 2013

Sustainability In Action: People, Planet and Prosperity

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Sustainability In Action: People, Planet and Prosperity

Metcalf Research Paper by Chris Lowry, August 2012

“Any cultural movement will fail if it can’t paint a picture of a world where people want to go to.”

– Martin Luther King

The objective of this paper is to identify examples of sustainability principles in action and to gain a greater understanding of how initiatives that demonstrate sustainability principles come into being and continue to be successful overtime.

27 Apr 2011

Ranch: The Alan Wood Ranch Project (excerpt)

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The Ranch Project was an art installation in the foothills of the Rockies, which Steve DeNure and I filmed over the course of year, through the 4 seasons, with his ingenious time-lapse 16 mm Bolex photography. In the film-on-art genre, ‘Ranch’ is a clever mix of old Westerns, TV news, and gorgeous experimental film making with a very cool soundtrack. Jay Scott in the Globe called it “a stunning documentary about a work of art… that actually has become a work of art.” The artist is Alan Wood.

In 1984-85, I also produced a Punk rock doc for TV called Not Dead Yet. Peter Wintonick (Manufacturing Consent), writing in Cinema Canada, called it “a model for all documentarians.” During this period I also started a publishing company, Razorback Press, to produce a satire of men’s magazines and advertising called The Best of Playboar which sold over 500,000 copies worldwide.

Ranch: The Alan Wood Ranch Project, a film by Steve DeNure and Chris Lowry (1985, 25 min.) is available on DVD from Ecotone.

04 Apr 2011

Public Speaking

No Comments Public Speaking

In January 2014 I led a workshop at the Sustainability Education conference at University of Toronto called Games for Change: Using Games with Senior Grades to advance Curriculum Objectives

This workshop was geared toward teachers who work with senior grades. At least half of the teachers who came to the session are gamers themselves, and they gave me great feedback on the early demo video for our multiplayer strategy mobile/tablet game, DeepCity 2030.

Workshop description: In this workshop Chris Lowry will present the early development of DeepCity 2030, a multiplayer online game to engage youth and young adults in an exploration of the future of cities. A brief demo video will be presented and explained. Variables of gameplay mechanics and design in relation to pedagogical agendas will be discussed. For the interactive part of the workshop, participants are encouraged to bring laptops and to share any games that they consider to be effective vehicles of experiential learning, such as games that are currently used in schools or popular games that effectively convey behavioral lessons about cooperation, or content in fields such as history or science. We will discuss and critique ‘games for change’ from the player/student’s perspective.

When I gave a talk about Jack Chambers at a wonderful historic building in Hamilton, the Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, the event curator, Tyler Tekatch, had this to say: “Much like the documentary itself, your talk was informative and enlightening, but also intimate, personal and full of enthusiasm for the subject. You are a wonderful storyteller, it was fascinating to hear you speak about your encounters and relationships with Canadian greats such as Kim Ondaatje and Greg Curnoe. A great film, and a great speaker.”

I do an annual lecture in the fall to the new students in Jennifer Sumner’s Adult Eduction for Sustainability Class at OISE/U of T. It is always a pleasure to speak at OISE where I did a Masters in Education (M.Ed.) in 2004.

“Thank you so much again for speaking with the students in the Adult Education for Sustainability class. They were inspired by your words and by your commitment to sustainable practice. I always learn something new when I hear you speak – you have a special gift of communication. Once again, heartfelt thanks for your contribution to learning.”
—Jennifer Sumner

“Wow! Wonderful unfolding of your downstream and upstream experiences… beams of wisdom shining out in all directions. The students were high on ideas after you left and our discussion of their research projects incorporated many of your themes. Thanks so much!”

Wally Seccombe, author, food and farming policy advocate, Professor of Sociology, University of Toronto

Chris Lowry is available as a public speaker.

Read more

03 Apr 2011

Kathmandu Darkroom

No Comments Photographs, Uncategorized

I had a darkroom in Kathmandu in 1978, provided by German friends who had brought the equipment in their Magic Bus from Munich. This is some of the photo printing work that I did during several weeks that I lived there during my slow road trip around the world. The Kathmandu valley was saturated and radiant with spring rains, and I was seeing everything for the first time.

Back in Toronto, the images caught the attention of the guys at Dreadnaught Press, which was affiliated with Coach House, and they made plans to send me back to Nepal with a fellow writer to shoot more and write it. We tried to find the money for it, but there were one too many coffee table books on the market by then. These photos (scans of the original prints) have not been published until now.

All rights reserved. Please contact Ecotone for reproduction rights.

31 Mar 2011

Andalusia without sky

No Comments News, Photographs

This is a series from Southern Spain —Granada, Seville, the Alpujarra range, the coast at Nerja, and Cordoba. I was traveling to meet a colleague at a film conference, and spent a week exploring this magical region, Andalusia, alone. I had a recently broken heart. I think that brought a heightened awareness, a kind of hyper vigilance, to my eye. Perhaps the photos have something sorrowful, hungry, and of course, downcast, in them. Taking the title from the photo of a mural that has the Spanish word for sky, ‘Cielo’, scrawled above the horizon, these pictures formed an exhibition at Rapp Optical gallery in Toronto called Andalusia: Sin Cielo (no sky).

Andalusia is the heart of Moorish Spain, where for some 800 years (710 to 1480) lslam held sway. By 1200, the vast majority of Iberia’s 7 million inhabitants, nearly all born there (now Spain and Portugal), were Muslim. In the Middle Ages, Cordoba was a magnet for the finest minds of the known world and burned like a torch in the gloom. After the first convulsions of Reconquesta in the 1200s, the Moorish Kingdom of Granada continued for three more centuries. The cathedrals of Cordoba and Seville have mosque architectural details and orange groves within them, and thankfully the delicate, transcendent wonders of the Alhambra Palace in Granada were not destroyed when Christendom established its hegemony in Europe and the Spanish Inquisition followed.

All rights reserved. Please contact Ecotone for reproduction rights.

31 Mar 2011

The Future of Travel

No Comments News, Words

Train station, Amsterdam (Photo by Chris Lowry)

Many of us enjoy traveling to far-off places – usually by air – sometimes for only a weekend. Southern Ontario attracts large numbers of visitors arriving by plane. Heck, they just expanded Pearson Airport to accommodate increasing traffic. It’s normal, it’s a way of life that’s taken for granted…and it probably won’t last much longer.
Read more

30 Mar 2011

A Conversation with Northrop Frye about William Morris

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Interested in Frye, author of The Great Code? Ever heard of Morris, the English arts and crafts radical of the late 19th century? William Morris was a multi-disciplinary designer, poet, social activist, translator of ancient Icelandic sagas, and a central member of the Pre-Raphaelites. Dante Gabriel Rossetti (12 May 1828 – 9 April 1882) was perhaps the most famous of those, and Morris’s wife was the model for the heroine in many of Rosetti’s gorgeous medieval scenes. Read more

29 Mar 2011

Jane Jacobs: Prophet of Globalization? Yes, but with a (local) human face

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Inspired by the Ideas that Matter conference celebrating Jane Jacobs in 1997, this essay is an effort to place her work within the continuing debate about how globalization works, and where we go from here. Read more

29 Mar 2011

Karate Kids

No Comments Film, Uncategorized

Karate Kids was a film I produced in 1989 when I served as Director of Educational Media at Street Kids International (1988 to 1998).  Here I produced animated films and the programs that delivered them to street educators in over 100 countries. Dealing with street life and HIV/AIDS, Karate Kids was the first of SKI’s educational cartoons, distributed in multiple languages around the world, and still in use today.  It was a co-production of SKI and the NFB, and directed by the great Derek Lamb with Kai Pindal as chief animator.

Karate Kids, Derek Lamb, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

28 Mar 2011

A Taste of History: Toronto’s Craft Breweries

1 Comment News, Words

It may surprise you to know that in the mid-19th century, every town in Ontario had a brewery and a tavern or two. During the 18th century, British soldiers in Canada were entitled to six pints of beer a day, and it was often quite strong beer, as much as 12% alcohol by volume! In The Canadian Settler’s Guide, the19th-century Canadian writer Catharine Parr Traill wrote that beer was the best beverage to provide “some cooling and strengthening…much required by men who have to work out in the heat of the sun.”
Mill Street Brewpub in the old Distillery District
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26 Mar 2011

Jesus of Guadalajara

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During the ten years that I worked with Street Kids International, I met a lot of cool, big hearted people working in the field around the world. This is a portrait of one of the best: Rogelio Padilla.

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26 Mar 2011

An Altered View of What it Means to be Human

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Photos of Oliver Sacks by Angela Radulescu

Oliver Sacks is simply a delightful writer, and this essay partakes of that pleasure. Oaxaca Journal crackles with botanical and ecological information framed for its meaning, not merely presented as scientific factoids. Science, it has been remarked, has no meaning. It is up to wise scientists to frame the facts meaningfully, as Sacks does.

This is a short essay about Oliver Sacks’ Oaxaca Journal, published in National Geographic Directions (Washington, 2002).

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26 Mar 2011

Please Pull the Baby out of the Fire: The Fallacy of Protecting Children from Armed Conflict

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Child alone, Kabul River (Photo by Chris Lowry)

The title, ‘pull the baby out of the fire’, comes from an 18th century English satirist named Mandeville. In The Fable of the Bees, Mandeville explains the nature of Virtue and Vice with a story. The story goes like this.

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26 Mar 2011

Conversations with Laurens Van Der Post, Marion Woodman, Ross Woodman, and Thomas Berry

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Four of wisest people who have shared the planet with us agreed to be interviewed by film maker Nancy Ryley for a book. Two of the subjects, Ross and Marion Woodman, are also friends of mine and both appear in my 1981 film about Jack Chambers. My first published book review was in praise of Marion’s first book, The Owl Was a Baker’s Daughter (Obesity, Anorexia and the Repressed Feminine).

“In times like these,” says Thomas Berry, “…we need people who realize that we are shaping a new order of things.”

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26 Mar 2011

What Do You Mean By Green?

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Green filters, certification, screening criteria, eye of the green needle—how do you know if you’re ‘green’ enough?

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26 Mar 2011

The Exile of Poetic Imagination

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This essay looks at my work promoting the use of expressive arts therapies with war-affected kids, and the challenges we faced in this work.
Boy with kite, Bamian, Afghanistan (Photo by Chris Lowry)

I am interested in the transformative power of theatre and ritual. “At its deepest level this is what theatre is about, the ability to frame and control, to transform the raw into the cooked, to deal with the most problematic (violent, dangerous, sexual taboo) human interactions.” (Schechner)

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25 Mar 2011

Children, War, and The Forgotten Ground of Healing

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This essay deals with ways to focus on the strengths and gifts of communities, and especially children, in war and other adversity. It comes out of the many years that I worked in the field of child health and rights.

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25 Mar 2011


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Dirty Old Town

(Ewan MacColl)

My inspiration was the Pogues. We played with the arrangement to make something new, and I think we did bring out some primal loneliness with Teilhard’s bodhran and the Ansgar’s harp solo.


(James Taylor)

Like John Prine’s ballad “Angels from Montgomery” this song is about suffering and regret written by a man in a woman’s persona. Full of defiance, it cuts to the heart of a factory worker’s boredom and a poor single mother’s desperation. Yet in her dreams she soars toward the light. This is probably the first time Francis Cabrel’s French version has been mixed with James Taylor’s lyrics.

25 Mar 2011


No Comments Music

Saint James Infirmary


When I came across the lyrics to this song in a book, it conjured up a long-dormant memory. I must have heard Louis Armstrong’s recording of it when I was a kid, so this arrangement grew out of that fragment of melody. This song has the alchemical power to take a singer deep down inside where that paradox of the blues happens, where sadness becomes energy, where grief is transmuted into joy.

The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down

(Robbie Robertson)

This one reminds me of my dad, Ben Hugh Lowry (1919-1992). Like Virgil Cane, he had a particularly Southern sense of betrayal in his blood, and a fierce courage. When I was very small he had a wonderfully aromatic cigarette lighter with a Confederate flag on it. One of my earliest, fondest memories is the magic of that lighter, because when you flipped the lid open it played Dixie and burst into flame.