Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
June 20, 2024
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A Summer of Song at the Sergeants Mess Hall

Cabaret-style performances in a richly historical night spot
<p>Dancing to the sounds of Brian Barlow at the Sergeants Mess Hall (Photo: Jason Parks / Gazette Staff)</p>
Dancing to the sounds of Brian Barlow at the Sergeants Mess Hall (Photo: Jason Parks / Gazette Staff)

Remember when Frank Sinatra used to walk out onto the stage of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas and say, “How’d all these people get in my room”? No stranger to stadium shows, Frank let the audience seated around tables know they were in for something special. Like invited guests, rubbing elbows with a star.

I have always held that you cannot have an aesthetic experience in a football stadium or hockey arena. No matter where you sit you’re too far away. The amplified sounds of the performers are deafening and disconnected. Since the 1980s, the tiny figures on stage have been eclipsed by the big TV screen you’re actually watching.

Wouldn’t you rather be in the presence of the performers, within range of eye contact, close enough to hear the difference between forte and piano?

You might have seen Carole Pope with Rough Trade opening for David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight concert at Toronto’s Exhibition Stadium. I was there with 60,000 other people that night in 1983. I cannot help but think that I may have missed some nuances. Imagine being able to see this icon of her generation from a table at the edge of the stage. Imagine being one of fewer than 200 people in the room. Imagine the bragging rights!

Carole Pope will play just such a show right here in Picton on June 8.

Carole Pope (Photo: Tatijana Shoan)

Welcome to Base31’s Sergeants Mess Hall. A full summer of intimate shows will take place in this historical space. Built in 1939 as the dining hall for Air Force trainees, and transformed over the decades, it now renews its role in the community as a cabaret-style entertainment venue, bringing its history with it.

“The Sergeants Mess has that great feeling of people,” says drummer and bandleader Brian Barlow. “It’s a lovely room to play in because it is intimate. It can be a quiet listening room or can be a party place. Same space. If you want people to dance, they can dance, but I’ve played there when you could hear a pin drop. There’s a great vibe in that room.”

The Brian Barlow Trio — the County’s favourite rhythm section — appears twice this season, accompanying two shows brought back by popular demand. Singer Heather Bambrick will survey Carole King’s work and Barbra Lica is singing Burt Bacharach.

Mr. Barlow speaks warmly of not only the space, but its creators. “They have allowed me to create programming. These are shows that we’ve created just for Base31. It’s something people can come and see here and not anywhere else.”

Ron Sexsmith (Photo: Kerry Vergeer)

Other acts at the Mess Hall this season include singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith with his celebrated gift for melody; County favorite Miss Emily rocking the blues; the ethereal poetry of veteran Jane Siberry; a return engagement of the legendary Jackie Richardson, this time with daughter Kim Richardson; the Juno Award nominated family folk duo, the Barbers; Amanda Martinez’s blend of sounds from around the world; Mohawk singer-songwriter Shawnee Kish, and many more. 

For full details and tickets see the Base31 website.

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 20 edition of The Picton Gazette
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