Out-of-the-ordinary musical experience in Merville

Concerts take place six to eight times a year at Gardener’s Green in Merville.

THIS GARDENER'S GREEN house concert featured Qristina and Quinn Bachand playing at a residence in Merville.

If you’re looking for an out of the ordinary musical experience, you might want to consider traditional folk music by top-notch performers in an intimate country venue.

Rhubarb ginger cake and a charity auction are a regular part of the program, too. Concerts take place six to eight times a year at Gardener’s Green in Merville.

Gardener’s Green also hosts a themed monthly folk club for those interested in playing or listening to old favourites from the British Isles, Celtic lands and Eastern Canada.

Coming events include the Food and Drink folk club gathering on Jan. 19, a concert featuring Tanya Opland and Mike Freeman on Feb. 16 and a folk club meeting on Feb. 23.

“Traditional folk music has travelled the world with immigrants, sailors and soldiers,” says Summer Joy. “It’s constantly changing and evolving just like a game of gossip.

“It’s thanks to the farm worker in the field, the miner toiling underground, a mother singing while washing dishes or a grandmother comforting babies that this music has stood the test of time and continues to be played today.”

A sojourn in England found the former Hornby Island resident immersed in the British folk music scene with husband Jim Webb. When they moved to Merville in 2010, they missed the folk clubs and festivals they’d attended.

But the house they bought had a large living, dining and kitchen area that was perfect for house concerts. That August, they hosted an event for some musical friends visiting from Scotland.

“It was a huge success and convinced us to continue,” says Joy. “There is a lot of music in the Valley and lots of venues but the folk music we love best is seldom heard. It obviously means a lot to others, too, as we’ve drawn very enthusiastic and appreciative audiences.”

So far, Gardener’s Green has hosted musicians from Scotland, England, Nova Scotia and the U.S. “We try to bring in performers that people in the Valley wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to hear,” explains Joy.

Part of the attraction is the intimate venue. No stage or electronic sound equipment allows lots of casual communication between performers and audience that continues throughout the intermission.

And Joy and Webb’s affinity for old tools, instruments and machinery and a penchant for collecting them, means there’s always something interesting to look at and chat about.

Intermission includes an auction for charity, usually Families for Children (www.familiesforchildren.ca), a non-profit organization that operates homes for destitute children and women in India and Bangladesh.

That changed last November when Joy’s 18-month-old granddaughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour. The family left their Hornby Island home for an overnight trip and are still in Vancouver, where Ursula is undergoing treatment at Vancouver Children’s Hospital.

A trust fund has been set up at Coastal Community Credit Union to support the family and this will be Gardener’s Green charity of choice for the next while.

Items often found on the auction block include a bottle of nut brown ale, homemade wine, a CD by the performer, tickets to future concerts and other items including Joy’s famous rhubarb ginger cake.

Joy, who bakes all the cakes, cookies and other goodies for intermission, noticed how popular the cake was and now makes one for the auction. “People just love it and it’s amazing how often it’s chosen as first prize,” says Joy.

A house concert means limited seating, in this case a maximum of 65.

“That’s why everyone has to reserve a ticket in advance,” explains Joy. “So we know how many chairs to put out and don’t sell more tickets than there is space. And because the front door is right there we encourage people to arrive a bit early to avoid disrupting the concert.”

Concert tickets, which include the dessert buffet, are $20 with all proceeds going to the musicians.

But concerts are only part of what Gardener’s Green (the name of the property) is all about. Monthly folk club meetings provide an opportunity for local folk musicians of all levels to perform a couple of sets and for people that love folk music to sit in the audience. Entry is free or by donation to whichever charity Gardener’s Green is supporting.

“Having a theme challenges musicians to perhaps learn something new,” says Joy. “But it’s all very light-hearted and the connection to the theme is often stretched and convoluted in amusing ways. The atmosphere is very laid back and welcoming. It’s a good way for closet folk musicians to take the next step and perform in public.”

For more information, to reserve tickets or be put on the e-mail concert information list, call 250-337-5337.

Paula Wild is a published author and regular contributor to the Comox Valley Record’s arts and entertainment section. www.paulawild.ca

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