How to Break Neko Case's Heart: Sing "Star Witness" Like Angels

Let's agree that most YouTube videos of cover songs by high-school students are meant to entertain a small circle of friends and earn derisive snorts much beyond the school grounds. Few are so pure in intention and strikingly beautiful in execution that they break the heart of the original artist.

Canadian students Kate Macdonald and Janelle Blanchard recorded a version of Neko Case's brooding "Star Witness" on a school staircase and the result moved Case to tears. "Wow. That just made me bawl my eyes out," she tweeted. "What beautiful singers. I'm not worthy... Holy god. They broke the shit out of my heart!!" Mine, too. They accomplish this with a ukelele, angelic voices, a talent for harmony - and a mission to save their school.

The Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School houses an arts-intensive program that draws creative students from the Toronto area. But, in September, the local school board voted to close the school. It is the only school in downtown Peterborough and is described by locals as vital to the life of the community. Kate and Janelle took to the stairwell to record Case's song to draw attention to the impending closure. That tweet from Case has the video (by Jared Raab) flying around the internet. You don't want to miss it. This is a tough time for school arts programs and these enormously talented students give the need to support arts in schools faces and achingly clear voices.

Learn more here.‬


The Kate and Janelle story has been picked up by the music press and once again Neko Case's support has focused attention on Peterborough school closing. Case invited the duo to a December 10 concert in Kingston, and invited them backstage. Aol's Spinner quoted Janelle as saying. "She was crying and hugging us. It was just an amazing experience. She's one of the most genuine people I've met. She's so nice. It was amazing." The Spinner piece with more coverage is here.

There is also an update on the local school board's activity and a benefit concert scheduled for the spring at the Learn More link above. 

The No Depression community's response has been overwhelming and supportive. Thank you for the many kind comments and for passing the word here and on Twitter and Facebook. 


Performed by Kate Macdonald & Janelle Blanchard 

Recorded in the stairwell at P.C.V.S. by Alex Unger with assistance from Emmott Clancy
Video by Jared Raab

Views: 14697

Tags: Bird, Brown, Case, Meadow, Neko

Comment by Bill Kuhn on December 13, 2011 at 2:47pm

Sweet, sweet, sweet. Not only the singing, but the clearly deep friendship and trust that is shown between these two young women.

Thanks for posting.

Comment by Kyla Fairchild on December 13, 2011 at 4:58pm

This is awesome Bob. Thanks for posting.

Comment by Hal Bogerd on December 13, 2011 at 6:10pm

Very very special!

Comment by chris sweeney on December 13, 2011 at 6:42pm

I fully expect those two lovely girls to save their school. Wonderful job Jared! Kate and Janelle - I look forward to seeing and hearing more of you both!

Comment by Steven E. Martin on December 14, 2011 at 4:40am

They had me with the laugh at the beginning!

Comment by Victoria Woodworth on December 15, 2011 at 11:48am

Piercingly completely beautiful from the first second to the last. When will the freakin trolls in charge quit closing down whatever is full of light and hope and passion?

Comment by marijn wijnands on December 16, 2011 at 4:11am


Comment by Reno Sepulveda on December 16, 2011 at 4:57am

I've always loved this song...   Amazing, thanks for sharing this. 

Comment by patrick charles on December 16, 2011 at 7:19am

ukeleles aren't just for Eddie Vedder anymore!

Comment by Hans L'Orange on December 16, 2011 at 7:46am

Dang!! Tears to my eyes indeed.


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Created by No Depression Feb 17, 2009 at 9:06pm. Last updated by No Depression Sep 24, 2012.