Mu­si­cians flock to farm­house

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

Some re­mark­able things are hap­pen­ing in an old farm­house in Stanstead, and they have lit­tle to do with agri­cul­ture. For about two years, Stanstead new­comer Hal New­man has been hold­ing con­certs fea­tur­ing tal-

ented, emerg­ing mu­si­cians from across Canada, the United States and be­yond, open­ing up his home not only to the per­form­ers once or twice a month, but also to the small au­di­ence who at­tends, who also come from near and far.

Mr. New­man came to Stanstead with his wife, Dianne Brunelle, and their two daugh­ters from the Mon­treal West area about six years ago. “Our dream was to have a place with horses. We knew the area a lit­tle be­cause Dianne grew up in Coat­i­cook and we had friends in Tomi­fo­bia,” he said in an in­ter­view with the Stanstead Jour­nal. “What re­ally blew us away was that we have seven acres of land; our en­tire street back in Mon­treal could fit on this prop­erty.”

The idea for the Stanstead House Con­certs, as they are of­fi­cially called, be­gan rather un­ex­pect­edly. “When we first ar­rived here, Jerry Good­sell and the Black Dogs did a con­cert on our porch. The seeds kind of stuck then. About two years ago, think­ing how there were lim­ited venues for mu­si­cians in a small town, we won­dered if we could host a con­cert in our house,” Hal ex­plained

Less than two years later, the fam­ily has seen more than twenty mu­si­cal acts per­form in their liv­ing room and Hal has or­ga­nized other con­certs in other un­usual venues such as a friend’s home in Tomi­fo­bia, the home of Ayer’s Cliff mayor Alec van Zuiden, and Princess El­iz­a­beth Ele­men­tary School, in Ma­gog. “Jordie Lane and Clare Reynolds, from Aus­tralia, played at the school a few weeks ago. The kids went wild; they all lined up af­ter for au­to­graphs. My goal is to ar­range some­thing like that with Sun­ny­side Ele­men­tary, Jardin-des-Fron­tieres and Cata­mount Arts,” said Mr. New­man.

Stanstead House Con­cert au­di­ences seem to be get­ting good value for their mod­est en­trance fee: many of the mu­si­cal acts who have per­formed in the Brunelle-New­man house­hold have gone on to greater heights, while oth­ers were al­ready well­known. “Oh Pep!, from Aus­tralia, played here in Oc­to­ber then sold out in New York City a week later. Their ca­reer has ex­ploded. Belle Starr, a coun­try su­per group, sold out their per­for­mance at the Spruce Peak Cen­ter, in Stowe, the night be­fore play­ing here,” Hal men­tioned, adding: “John Jacob Mag­is­tery played Osheaga last sum­mer, and they were in our liv­ing room in March. And they want to come back.”

Asked why suc­cess­ful per­form­ers would be ‘lin­ing up’ to play in a farm­house well off the beaten track, Hal, who now has over fifty acts on a wait­ing list, ex­plained: “In a small venue like this, they have an at­ten­tive au­di­ence. It’s also a safe en­vi­ron­ment, where they can ex­per­i­ment with their mu­sic. We start with a pot luck din­ner with the artists and the au­di­ence, so they re­ally get to meet them.” He con­tin­ued: “Mu­si­cians are trav­el­ers, and when they come here we feed them and put them up in a lo­cal B & B. That’s a nice change for them.”

The au­di­ence, which in­cludes some reg­u­lars, is made up of peo­ple not only from Stanstead and neigh­bor­ing towns, but from as far away as Sher­brooke, Granby, Mon­treal and Ver­mont. “Peo­ple from New York and New Jersey have made reser­va­tions for one of the con­certs this sum­mer. Ev­ery­one en­ters here as a stranger, and ev­ery­one leaves as a friend.”

The Stanstead House Con­certs have been so pop­u­lar with both artists and au­di­ences, they seem like a wel­come and natu-

ral ad­di­tion to what the town has to of­fer visi­tors and res­i­dents. “We have all the el­e­ments here to make a mu­sic economy,” said Hal, who went on to talk about the small com­mu­nity of Mus­cle Shoals, Alabama, where all the Mo­town hits, which changed pop­u­lar mu­sic for­ever, were recorded. “There can be so many spin-offs from mu­sic, like train­ing pro­grams, so­cial me­dia; so many dif­fer­ent path­ways. We’re at the north­ern end of the Ap­palachi­ans; mu­sic runs through that moun­tain chain like a big vein, and there are lots of small towns with chal­lenges. A lot is pos­si­ble with mu­sic,” he con­cluded.

The next Stanstead House Con­cert is tak­ing place Sun­day, May 15th, and will fea­ture the world-class Que­be­cois tra­di­tional folk mu­sic duo, Yann Fal­quet and Pas­cal Gemme.

photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

Hal New­man hosts mu­si­cal acts at his home, in Stanstead, and at other spe­cial venues in the re­gion.

Photo cour­tesy Daniel Manny

Les Poules a Colin seemed at home as they made mu­sic on the porch of the Brunelle-New­man farm­house last sum­mer.

Photo cour­tesy Ja­son Rodi

The coun­try su­per group Belle Starr per­form­ing in Hal New­man’s liv­ing room, in Stanstead.

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