Music may feed your soul, but can it save the City of the Arts?
Bill Sample and Darlene Cooper think so.
The two longtime musicians who transplanted to Port Moody from Vancouver four years ago are proposing a series of concerts to be held at Inlet Theatre from September to next May.
And they’re hoping the city will get behind the idea.
Last Tuesday (Feb. 8), council directed staff to work with Sample and Cooper to find ways to make the concerts happen without costing the city money while also providing economies to the would-be promoters.
Sample and Cooper were hoping for a blanket endorsement that would include a waiver of rental fees to keep costs down and the performances affordable, but they said they’re encouraged enough to keep pressing forward.
Sample, a session musician, composer, arranger and musical director who’s worked with big time acts like Celine Dion, Ray Charles and David Foster, and Cooper, a singer-songwriter as well as conductor and music educator, said they came to Port Moody to escape the Vancouver rat race.
They were attracted by the city’s small-town vibe and natural environs.
But, they admitted, the City of the Arts tagline also spoke to them as musicians.
The reality, though, has been somewhat lacking, they said — especially since the demise of the beloved Bistro Gallery that was destroyed in a 2019 fire and took with it a lively little performance venue for local and guest musicians, poets, writers and visual artists.
Sample said with no place to play, Port Moody residents are being denied the pleasures of enjoying some of the amazing talent that lives in the area or could pass through on tour, like Miles Foxx Hill, who’s played bass for Van Morrison and Michael Bublé as well as Brazilian jazz superstar Ivan Lins and now operates Frequency Forward Studios in the city.
“It’s been a bit of a bee in my bonnet,” said Cooper about the city’s lack of a vibrant performing arts scene.
To salve the sting, she and Sample pitched the idea of hosting six to nine concerts in the fall, winter and early spring at the 159-seat Inlet Theatre.
The raised wooden stage and professional sound system make the civic venue perfect for intimate shows by musicians like the Shari Ulrich Band, Norm Foote or Port Coquitlam jazz bassist Jodi Proznick, they told council last December.
But to be viable, they said, they’d need the city’s financial support.
Such backing would also put a little more meaning into its tagline, added Sample.
“The city can help fill the void by getting behind programming at Inlet Theatre.”
Cooper said with more and more people finding their way to Port Moody from bigger urban centres like Vancouver, there’s an unrequited thirst for local live entertainment options that don’t require a SkyTrain ride or drive back into the city.
And as everyone begins to ponder the tantalizing temptation of resuming some sort of normal life after two years of COVID-19 public health restrictions, the time is right to quench that thirst.
“We’ve all been under so much pressure and stress,” Cooper said. “Music feeds the soul. It would be really soothing and comforting.”
Sample added the concerts would also help the music community get back on its feet after two years of lockdowns as well as put Port Moody on the musical map.
“We need music in our lives,” he said.