Ivan Boudreau has been growing his musical showcase SongStage for years – bringing friends, colleagues, and musical heroes together for evenings of creative exploration.
Many venues across the Lower Mainland have housed Boudreau’s project, but he said none have suited SongStage quite like Langley’s own Bez Arts Hub.
“Everyone who goes into that place for the first time goes ‘whoa, where’s this place been’?” Boudreau said. “The place is perfect for a concert – a little place in Langley people don’t quite know about yet.”
Boudreau has been a songwriter since high school, traversing the cab-country scene around Boston and Toronto for much of his career.
He has joined musical showcases such as SongBird North, filled musical mentorship roles, and been a part of the Songwriters Association of Canada which all helped lay the groundwork for his own event.
“I love to share the stage and there’s just so much quality art. It’s a concert setting – people are not going for dinner or drinks, SongStage gives a quiet place for artists to play original songs,” Boudreau explained.
SongStage takes multiple artists – typically four – and puts them all up on a stage together where the relaxed show just goes where it may.
Bringing together stories on process and musical creation mixed with intimate sets, the evening is shaped by the Nashville “in the round” style where the floor’s command rotates to each artist for several turns until the night concludes.
Now a Maple Ridge resident, Boudreau held early versions of SongStage in that city’s ACT Arts Centre for eight years as an open mic night. He later moved the program to Gallery Bistro in Port Moody where the series took shape and adopted the SongStage name.
After meeting Russ and Sandy Rosen and wanting to bring the show to a bigger level, the perfect home for SongStage would finally present itself.
“I married a girl who liked arts and music and did a lot of things – we lived on the road doing mobile theatre,” Russ Rosen said. “We decided to do less travelling and start Dance Barn Studio. When it came time to decide whether to shut it down or go big, we decided to make music everything.”
The couple opened Bez Arts Hub (20230 64 Ave, #102) in 2017 to try and bring a bigger musical culture to Langley.
SongStage debuted in March of this year with a successful season of varying artists – Langley’s own Bruce Coughlan returned to his home town for a performance at Bez Arts. Angela Harris, Ken McCoy, Todd Richard, and many more stopped by to take part throughout the season.
Boudreau said he finds performers through long-established contacts, newsletters, and even artists simply asking to be a part. He hopes SongStage will also give new songwriters a chance to establish themselves and maybe even inspire a few to begin their career.
“There’s no qualifications to be a songwriter. You just need a point of view and we all have them,” Boudreau said. “If you ask ten people in a room the same questions, you’ll get a different answer from everyone. We all have something to say – something different.”
The 2019/2020 season is already taking shape with three planned Saturday night SongStage events on September 21, November 16, and February 8.
The first show in the fall will feature performances Jessica Barbour, Ranj Singh, and Bez Art’s own Russ Rosen.
Tickets can be purchased at www.bezartshub.com.
“It’s a struggle to get people out,” Boudreau admitted. “Live music is not in the same place as it used to be but I’d like to see it growing – get some songwriters with name recognition; ‘name on the marquee’ kind of performers.”
In the meantime before SongStage starts up after its summer break, concerts at Bez Arts Hub including Qristina & Quinn Bachand and Emily Chambers with Curt Henderson will be happening in the coming weeks.
“It’s a perfect venue and listening room,” Rosen added, “and SongStage is right along the line with what we’re wanting to do at Bez Arts Hub.”
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