I love playing in venues where the passion, vision and energy from every collaborator collide to create a memorable evening.
This is the type of experience you can expect when you visit La Grange Laurier. Situated in Laurier, a small franco-manitoban town 260km North West of Winnipeg, this house concert venue doubles as a gourmet restaurant and triples as a bed and breakfast. This place is a true prairie gem, so is Lucien Boisvert, the man that runs it.
Firstly, let’s talk ambiance: the first time I visited La Grange Laurier was in February 2012 – I was playing a house concert in a nearby town and was billeted in Lucien's home. He greeted me with a glass of red wine and we enjoyed a “simple midnight snack” (an assortment of cheeses, fine meats, nuts and dried fruit) by the wood-burning heater. With that, Lucien draws you into the story of his home and his vision for the place – so much so, you don’t even notice the numerous renovation projects simultaneously on the go. His childhood home is what makes the core of the structure, around which he added multi-functional rooms where his guests can visit, dine and enjoy live music. The home is quite large, renovated with reclaimed beams and wood from abandoned farm structures and decorated with antique furniture. La pièce de résistance is the outdoor shower! (There are indoor showers too!). In winter, before his guests turn in for the night, Lucien preheats their bed using bricks that are warmed on his wood stove. It’s hard not to feel at home here.
Secondly, let’s talk food: Lucien has a true passion for food, is a fabulous cook and great host! Supper starts at 6pm sharp, the concert starts at 8pm and dessert is served during intermission. The musical guests he hosts in the living room often inspire his menu: Cajun-inspired recipes when a Cajun band plays; Mexican-inspired thanksgiving feast serenaded by a Latin band, etc. Last night he served chicken breasts with a beef/sage/cinnamon/nutmeg stuffing. He served grilled zucchini topped with Parmesan, roasted cauliflower and cashews, steamed carrots with pecan brittle and “enough Greek salad to feed the nice and the crazy” (a translation of the francophone saying “Pour les fins et les fous!). Seated around king-size wood tables, he hosts about 30 people for supper: artists and guests alike, mingling and making a dent on the wine. He served a 1940’s bread pudding for desert topped with maple syrup and whiskey-infused whipped cream.
He goes all out for breakfast too – we woke up to the smell of coffee and Lucien had a two-course breakfast ready: fresh fruit and yogurt followed by prosciutto-wrapped baked eggs on a slice of pumpernickel bread and an assortments of home-made jams and jellies.
Thirdly, let’s talk music: the tables are cleared by 7:30pm and extra guests show up for the concert that begins promptly at 8pm. He has hosted up to nearly 70 people in his living room/dining area for a house concert. Some people sit on the small balcony on the second floor overlooking the performing space. After spending a couple hours breaking bread with all the guests and getting to know their stories, we develop a more intimate relationship with our audience – something that doesn’t really happen when we perform in larger venues. This is the magic of a house concert.
The audience we had last night was a total delight – so generous with their laughter and enthusiasm. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard during a Rosie and the Riveter’s show. This is what gives purpose to our performances as a band – it’s all about making human connections, sharing the best of each other’s talents to make the evening we spend with our audiences meaningful and uplifting.
Combine this atmosphere with great food, great wine and great company and you have a recipe for success and a fabulous evening out. Spread the word about La Grange Laurier! Better yet, make the trip out for one of his next concerts… and reserve a room to stay the night. I heard he prepares a 13-course thanksgiving feast and hosts Christmas parties (booking up already!). You won’t regret it.