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Port Moody concerts run into bylaw trouble

Anna Levy sits in the studio in her home where the Yarilo Music Society has hosted concerts for about 30 people. - SARAH PAYNE/TRI-CITY NEWS
Anna Levy sits in the studio in her home where the Yarilo Music Society has hosted concerts for about 30 people.
— image credit: SARAH PAYNE/TRI-CITY NEWS

A non-profit society that offers contemporary music concerts in a Port Moody home has run afoul of the City of the Arts’ bylaws.

Anna Levy and her husband, Gregory Myers, founded the Yarilo concert series last spring. In the inaugural season, they offered four concerts in a large studio on the ground floor of their home on Shoreline Circle, at the city’s far northwest tip. They were three concerts in to their second season when they got a letter from a city bylaw officer, requesting the concerts stop immediately because they contravened a zoning bylaw. Levy said several guests attending the May 12 concert also received parking tickets just five minutes after the show started, which she said was “humiliating.”

“They’re putting us underground, we’re going to have to call ourselves a secret society,” she said.

“Either that or Port Moody should stop calling itself the City of the Arts,” Myers added.

One reason they started the Yarilo series was a lack of concert space in PoMo. The Inlet Theatre does not have appropriate acoustics, Levy said, nor does it have a piano.

The couple, who both hold doctorate degrees in music, have hosted professional musicians and ensembles, including the string quartet Microcosmos and renowned Mexican pianist Edison Quintana, as part of the series.

Myers said in-home concerts are a growing trend in music circles and are gaining popularity among musicians who may not be able to afford the steep fees of a concert hall as well as audiences, who enjoy the cosy, relaxed atmosphere. “It brings chamber music back to its roots, which is music for the living room or the drawing room,” he said. Attendance at the concerts has averaged about 30 guests, which have included local council members and staff as well as family and friends.

But Jim Weber, PoMo’s bylaws manager, said the concern comes down to safety. The concerts are considered a commercial assembly and don’t fit the home’s single-family zoning. “You’re inviting the general public in, as opposed to having your friends over,” Weber said.

And under the provincial building code, a commercial assembly use brings with it several safety requirements, such as exit and emergency lighting, a sprinkler system and appropriate washroom facilities.

Levy and Myers said they’ve done everything they can to meet safety requirements and don’t understand why their concerts can’t be accommodated, particularly since they’ve already signed contracts with musicians planned for the June 10 and July 7 and 8 concerts.

“[The city] encourages people to have cultural activities, including block parties — this is somewhat of a block party for us,” Levy said, noting the city seems to make exceptions for events such as ArtWalk, where the public visits home-based studios to view and purchase artwork.

“We are not trying to run a basement operation here,” Levy said. “But the city of Port Moody... is very lacking in its support and recognition of music. It would be impossible for us to pay our performers and rent a hall without some form of sponsorship.”

Levy suggested if the city will not permit her to use her home for the concerts, perhaps it could offer the Inlet Theatre for the upcoming show, which does not require a piano.

 

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