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L.A. Beat

Home Routes house concerts provide another opportunity for travelling musicians

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It isn’t easy for a travelling musician.
 In a country as vast as Canada, it can be a challenge to get  gigs, and in a crowded bar, surrounded by a room full of people more interested in drinking and visiting, it can be difficult to get them actually listening to your music.James Gordon plays a house concert. Photo Submitted

 Fortunately there is Home Routes, a nationwide concert series which takes place in people’s homes — an intimate atmosphere surrounded by the host’s closest friends. They not only feature up and coming talent like Meghan Blanchard, but big names like Valdy, Ken Hamm, Ian Tamblyn and Rita Chiarelli, who have won critical acclaim and awards.

 The host advertises the show to their friends plus puts musicians up for the night and feeds them on a day which might otherwise be wasted and thus costing the musician money.
 In return the musician plays a private concert. The host charges $20 to attend, with all of the money going to the musician.

 Home Routes is funded mostly by Canadian Council For the Arts grants.
“It’s a lot of fun. And it’s a good way to bring music into more rural areas that don’t often get live music, ” said Home Routes Operations Manager Ali Hancharyk.

 Home Routes features a variety of styles of music including  folk, blues and Celtic music.
They have 12 English circuits running through the year, with a circuit being a series of 12 households  who host shows plus two French  circuits.
Lethbridge has two households on the  Home Routes Circuit. Heather Nicholson hosts shows Feb. 8 - Eileen McGann with David K; March 8 - Tim Harrison and April 20 - Michael Jerome Browne
 Valerie McQuaid joined Home Routes last year in an effort to give back to the national music community for helping her daughter Alyssa’s career.
“We’ve met so many people who have been really supportive of Alyssa, so getting involved with Home Routes seemed like a great way to pay it forward to other artists. We don’t get paid, it’s all volunteer,” said McQuaid.

 While she wasn’t sure exactly how she found out about Home Routes, she contacted them and was excited to join up.
 As a bonus, McQuaid noted the hosts really get to know the musicians.
“It’s all ages, so kids who can’t get into the bars to see live music who can listen,” she said.
“It’s a listening audience, so it is a whole different audience. And the music starts at 7 p.m. and ends at 11:30 p.m., so people who have to get up early the next morning for work can get to bed at a decent time,” she enthused.

 She has hosted a variety of musicians including Winnipeg folk darlings the Duhks’ claw-hammer banjo wizard Leonard  Podolak, the Crooked Brothers, Chuck Suchy, Scott Nolan and Joanna Miller. They will be hosting Meghan Blanchard on Feb. 14 followed by James Gordon of Tamarack on March 14 and  finish this season with Alana Levandoski on April 14.
Having these talented musicians playing in such close quarters is pretty inspirational for McQuaid and her whole family.
“I’ve got three boys. They are underage, so they can’t get into the bars to see music, but we had the Crooked Brothers playing here and right after that show two of them took the money they saved up and went out and bought a banjo and a mandolin,” she said.

 Even though it is usually close friends who come,  Home Routes has a dedicated following.
“We had a girl call up from Nunavut who wanted to see Leonard Podolak. So that was quite an experience,” she said.

 Prince Edward Island singer songwriter Meaghan Blanchard is looking forward to being part of another Home Routes  concert tour, which brings her to Lethbridge to play the McQuaid’s living room, Feb. 14. She has been involved with Home Routes for two-and-a half years.
“Being a touring musician can be pretty lonely. But playing house concerts is making friends. You get to be part of their family,” Blanchard said. She has two CDs out of her original folk/ roots/ country music and is working on a third backed by her band, which she expects will be completed by the end of 2012.

“It’s just an incredible series. I just wish I could bring my band, but they might not fit in a living room,” she laughed.

“I’m really into storytelling with my music,” she said of the type of music she plays.

Meaghan Blanchard plays a house concert in Lethbridge this week. Photo submitted
The 23-year-old singer had a brush with royalty last July. She got the opportunity to play for the royal couple Kate and Prince William during their visit to PEI, and came very close to insulting the prince by calling him a “dootch” which sounds close to “douche.”

“I’ll be able to tell that story to my kids, if I have any,” she said.

“Quite a while back they told me that I was going to be playing for them, but they told me not to tell anybody. Then they told me I was going to greet them ‘On behalf of the people of P.E.I’  welcome to the duke and duchess.’ I rehearsed it over and over again. But on the day, it was raining the stage was wet and the band was freaking out about their equipment getting wet. I was nervous and I called him a ‘dootch,’” she related.
“There were like 40 national media there. But she nudged him and he looked as if to say ‘what did she just call me,’ but they laughed. And they were so stiff and formal before that, which I guess is what they are supposed to be,” she recalled.

 She get asked a lot about the incident, usually before she plays the  song “Waltzing With You,” which she played for them.
“But then other people will say ‘what are you talking about,’” she said.
“She is looking forward to playing Lethbridge for the first time.
“I’ve never been out to Alberta before. So I’m excited to get out there. hopefully the weather will  be nice,” she enthused.

A version of this story appears in the Feb. 8, 2012 edition of the Lethbridge Sun Times


—  By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor


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Last Updated ( Friday, 10 February 2012 01:11 )  
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