For The Love of Music

The Meaford Hall Gallery Concert Series has been an outstanding success with every show bringing an artist that has something very special to offer, with the rare opportunity to enjoy them in a small intimate venue.  Sound engineer Al Burnham has been there for each one to ensure that the high quality sound that we have come to expect from Meaford Hall provides the optimum setting for these talents.  Although local live music fans are looking forward to the reopening of the Opera House, just a month away when The Harpoonist And The Axe Murderer appear on April 11, those who have been attending the Gallery Series still have two great shows to look forward to.

This coming Saturday it’s Wendell Ferguson, already sold out, and in a couple of weeks Rob Lutes will be here on April 1st.

Wendell Ferguson won the Guitar Player of the Year trophy at the Canadian Country Music Association awards so many consecutive years in a row that he asked them to stop nominating him. He received nominations for the CCMA Vocal Collaboration of the Year (1999), Album of the Year (2006) and was nominated for a JUNO award for Country Duo or Group in 1995 with Coda the West.  And finally in 2014, he was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame.  He’s in demand as a session player and has toured with people like Shania Twain, The Dixie Chicks, Patty Loveless, and Gordon Lightfoot, to name just a few.  On top of his reputation as a stellar guitar player, he is also legendary for his humour and wit.  It’s no wonder the show has sold out.

How could it be that such an acclaimed performer would be snagged to play such a small venue?  The answer is the Irish Mountain connection.

The one name that almost every performer in the series has mentioned is Liz Scott, who has been running the Irish Mountain house concerts for sixteen years.  They know Meaford and are happy to come here to play because she has hosted them in the past.

Wendell Ferguson and Katherine Wheatley at Irish Mountain House Concert

“The hall was looking for people who are good with small crowds,” she says, “so I was happy to help.  Wendall was at my very first house concert, with Katherine Wheatley, and they’ve both been back several times.”

The Irish Mountain House Concerts were inspired way back in 2000 when Liz heard an interview on CBC radio with a Sarnia couple who was setting up concerts at their home, usually with a break-even or negative cash flow, to give acoustic artists a place to perform, motivated by the love of music.

“I was already interested in live music,” says Liz, “I promoted some events in high school for the Student Council.  We have the space for it and I love having people in our house.”  Since then she has hosted 125 concerts, many with artists who have become big names, but still love to return to play there.

She is part of what makes this area special, one of many who support local live music, giving the Southern Georgian Bay area a reputation among musicians and music promoters that emanates well beyond our area.

Liz Scott with Suzie Vinnick, who kicked off the Gallery Series

“I happened to be talking to a music promoter down around Chatham,” she says, “and he asked me where I was from.  When I said Meaford, he said everybody knows about Meaford and the great music that happens all around the area.”  While Meaford Hall, which has a great reputation among touring performers, is a big part of that, there are also promoters who devote a lot of time and effort, usually with little or no financial gain, to bring great artists to the area.

“Part of the magic of our area is that we do it for the love of it.  The people here who promote music just kind of really love live music and bringing people together, building community.  For me these sixteen years have been a life-changing hobby, getting to know performers and meeting so many people from the community.  Everybody wins.”

Liz has branched out beyond her home to promote concerts at The Roxy in Owen Sound and at Meaford Hall.  She is contributing to the Grand Reopening Event at the beginning of May when she presents “An Intimate Evening with Sean McCann from Great Big Sea” at Meaford Hall on May 5th.

Although she has some performers booked for house concerts next September, and will probably set something up this spring, Liz has a busy summer ahead, working with Mariposa and heading to Newfoundland to help out with a short tour and a music festival arranged by Shawn Majumder in his home town of Burlington, Newfoundland.  Her love of music and hard work at bringing artists to our area has led to these additional opportunities to do what she enjoys.

While they clearly enrich her life, and present valuable opportunities for touring performers, the Irish Mountain House Concerts also enrich our community.  Although she has accumulated a big email list over the years she doesn’t specifically promote the house concerts.  But, she says, “they are open to anybody who loves music and wants to come.”

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