A pretty little park in Port Coquitlam has been the backdrop for impromptu Sunday evening concerts, bringing neighbours together for some feel-good songs and cheer.
Lisa Rae Simons, a professional singer and bass player with a powerful voice and infectious smile, has been lugging her guitars to Settlers Park, where she belts out popular tunes and takes musical requests from her neighbours.
“It was a way to share my gift with the community and give them something to look forward to,” said Simons, who has been on Vancouver’s music scene for decades, teaches music and plays and sings with the Motown Show as well as some of B.C.’s biggest tribute bands.
Now she's planning a final night of song for 2021 — on Halloween night.
Simons promises to play “Monster Mash” and other spooky tunes for those who turn out.
The gatherings — typically taking place around the dinner hour — bring dog walkers, families and music lovers together under the trees next to the playground at Settlers Park.
It’s become a Sunday evening tradition that started in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, continued through this spring, summer and fall, and one that Simons hopes to continue next year.
“I’ve had people say it was literally a lifesaver for them,” said Simons, who said her motivation was to share her music but also to keep up her “chops” when many venues were closed.
Her musical pals often accompany her, and there can be as many as half a dozen professional musicians — complete with amps and drums — to round out the sound.
There’s no name for the band; it’s just a fun gathering, said Simons, and she said her group will play everything from kids music to rock, blues and R&B.
“I go with the flow of what the moment wants,” she said.
Her audience is “whoever shows up” and she plays even in cool, blustery weather as well as blistering heat. The impromptu gatherings take place on a flat piece of grass next to a children’s playground.
It’s an ideal setting for the outdoor musical evenings, said Simons, because the park is already set up for COVID-19 safe gatherings, with picnic tables spaced apart.
And since the city approved alcohol consumption for those of legal age, people have been bringing their lawn chairs to listen to the music while they enjoy a beverage or even a picnic dinner.
The musical evenings start around 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and donations are welcome.
Halloween night will be the last impromptu “show” for the year and will start about 6 p.m.