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Elise Boulanger talks history, music and the importance of connecting

Musician and band to play the Parksville Museum on Sept. 5
Elise Boulanger will play the Parksville Museum on Sept. 5. (Davis Hammer photo)

For Elise Boulanger, music and history are connected and intertwined.

That’s why the Parksville Museum is such a fitting spot for her upcoming concert. Boulanger is set to play the outdoor pavilion at the museum on Saturday, Sept. 5 with a full band.

“It will be a show of mostly original music by myself and then it will also be woven with some really traditional Canadian songs, which highlight Canadian history and the country’s natural landscapes,” she said. “Whenever I perform I always share stories and background to the meanings of the songs or funny anecdotes that happened along the way…I think it’s important to ground us all and understand the stories.”

Boulanger, who currently lives in Nanaimo, said although she prefers to not subscribe to genre labels, her music could be classified as Chamber Folk Pop. She points to Austrian composer Franz Schubert and singer-songwriter Regina Spektor as influences. Classical music has been especially present throughout her career – she studied the genre at the Victoria Conservatory of Music.

“It’s folk because the lyricism within my songs, it has a lot of detail and that’s often story or historically inspired, and then it’s pop because it’s more contemporary,” she said. “But I am influenced by a lot of classical music.”

READ MORE: Music industry feeling the effects of COVID-19 pandemic

Boulanger and her band were supposed to be on a tour of Western Canada this summer, but it was put on hold. She said it’s been interesting to see musicians adapt to COVID. She said although for many it’s stunted creativity, she feels grateful to have had the opposite experience.

“We had to really adapt, so what we did was a series of taking it to the street shows, so we’d be invited into people’s vegetable gardens, for example, and they’d invite their friends or neighbours, which was really the emphasis, neighbours and creating that community connection,” she said. “And then we’d play and it would be a pass the hat situation and it would just be nice because it would bring the communities together and neighbours would meet neighbours that they might not have necessarily met otherwise.”

Boulager said the experiences she’s had playing at more unconventional venues such as campgrounds and yards has not only shown her how people can connect with music through the pandemic, but given her the added bonus of performing outdoors.

“It’s really great because a lot of my music is inspired by natural landscapes and the environment is incredibly important to me, so it’s a great pairing actually,” she said. “We try to encourage people to meet people at the shows.”

Another adaptation has been moving a lot of what she does online, which wasn’t a natural transition. She was able to experiment with online collaboration through a songwriting collaboration through Music BC, working with a hip hop musician and a producer to compose a piece that fit into their ‘Alone Together’ theme.

“I think maybe it’s allowed more collaboration to occur and I find that people are much more willing to join forces in different capacities just because everyone is really trying to help each other out,” she said. “So I think that’s a really beautiful thing.”

Up next for Boulanger is the fall release of her single, ‘Cigarettes et rosé’, described on her website as ‘an energetically percussive anthem of silly French happenings alluding to history and the importance of trusting people’. While living in France, she observed that, “people wouldn’t trust others to come into their homes. Thus, they would avoid having at-home gatherings. This absolutely fascinated me, especially given that Canadians are so welcoming and accepting.”

You can catch Boulanger and her band at the Parksville Museum at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 5 at 1245 Island Hwy E. The suggested donation is $15. The event is family-friendly and outside, allowing for social distancing.

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