If you thought you heard music when you drove through the blustery snow over icy roads past Round Hill Hall one night last week, you weren’t mistaken.
You should have stopped. They could have squeezed in a few more people as the Ewan MacIntyre Band tuned up and rosined the bows in an evening of what concert producer Chris Williams described as Celtic Jazz. Or maybe at times Celtic Bluegrass with a Quebec flavour.
The coffee was on, members of the hall committee baked some tasty treats and all you had to do was drop a donation in the jar to get drinks, cookies, muffins, and squares. Williams, of StrongWill Productions, was at the door to greet people – and he knew most of them considering many were his neighbours.
The place was packed despite the weather. Williams said people along Highway 201 were ready for live music at the hall. He wasn’t wrong.
“Walking into the hall and seeing the tables filled up with people was just so heart-warming,” said Linda Hulme Leahy. “To think that our little hall could be filled with such wonderful music. Ewan MacIntyre and his band mates gave us a fab performance in an intimate atmosphere.”
First Of Many
Hulme Leahy is secretary of the hall committee and helped organize the event that Williams hopes will be the first of many.
Williams described the evening as beautiful, noting types of performances will change from concert to concert.
“I base everything around a ‘roots’ style and then they sort of branch off from there,” he said, “whether it’s a little country edge, bluegrass edge, or in this case a Celtic jazz edge. But they all have that roots sort of style, predominantly singer/songwriter.”
The Jan. 31 concert wasn’t amplified, but that didn’t matter in the cozy little hall. Everybody was close to the stage.
Williams said he has no other goal than to bring live entertainment to Round Hill.
“We ran this in the Canadian Rockies for seven years and the only goal was to give ourselves some entertainment,” he said.
Based on the Ewan MacIntyre Band’s reception on Jan. 31, Williams thinks people in the area are hungry for this sort of entertainment.
“Tonight we had a really good crowd here. We had some people who couldn’t make it because of the weather,” he said. “Of course it wasn’t the most pleasurable evening to be outside, but there’s a calling for this in this area and I think it’s long overdue that we got it back into Round Hill.”
“Right now we’re part of the Home Roots Canada series, so we’ve got one concert every month over the wintertime. There’s six concerts,” he said. When those concerts are finished he’ll bring in other acts consisting of artists he’s quite familiar with.
“I’ve got a whole sort of group of friends that we’ve collected over the years who are all singer/songwriters. A number of them are Juno nominees and winners,” he said. “We did a CD a number of years ago when we were out in the Rockies. We brought 16 female singer/songwriters together. I’d like to do the same sort of thing here.”
He’d like to call them the Round Hill Sessions.
“We’d do a live recording right here in the Round Hill Hall and produce the CD out of Round Hill,” he said.
Hulme Leahy has no doubt future concerts will be popular.
“It is really exciting when all the pieces come together for an evening like this,” she said. “(I’m) super excited to see what else comes to our little community.”
She said Williams is really eager to make Round Hill come alive with music, adding the hall turned out to be the perfect venue.
“The whole evening was genuine, authentic,” she said. “My husband Miles and myself had the band members stay at our place for the night and we had such a great time with them.”
Indeed the band members mixed with the crowd during the intermission, feeling at home in the rural venue. MacIntyre on guitar and mandolin, and violinist Peter Menzies, are both from Scotland while cellist Karine Bouchard is from Montreal.
“It's the last place standing in Round Hill that can bring people together and we're hoping that musical events like this can really show that having a community hall is a necessary part of life around here,” Hulme Leahy said.
The next concert is slated for March 16 - two women from Massachusetts. And on April 14 three women from Ontario in a group called The Dirty Dishes. That will finish the Home Roots Canada series with Williams’ acts running through the summer.