Concert series in Maple Ridge continues artist's lifelong quest to help fellow singers and songwriters

The Heels – Georgia Dominelli, Kyla Rawlins, and Brittni Dominelli – are a North Vancouver country trio who will be performing at the first of three concerts in the Little Brick Church series this Sunday, May 1. - Special to The TIMES
The Heels – Georgia Dominelli, Kyla Rawlins, and Brittni Dominelli – are a North Vancouver country trio who will be performing at the first of three concerts in the Little Brick Church series this Sunday, May 1.
— image credit: Special to The TIMES

Laurie Thain has always been about showcasing up-and-coming country music artists in B.C.

Although, for all intents and purposes she is retired from the entertainment world, Thain can’t seem to stop being a performer – not completely.

In fact, her passion for music and her efforts in the industry through all the years were recognized earlier this month, when the singer and songwriter was inducted into the B.C. Country Music Association’s (BCCMA’s) Hall of Fame.

“I must admit that I was surprised at being chosen for induction into the BCCMA Hall of Fame,” Thain told The TIMES.

Thain was lauded for the more than 23 years she spent touring clubs, concerts, and festivals performing mainly in Western Canada, but as far afield as New Zealand.

“It feels good to be remembered after a lifetime of music making. Being in the hall of fame is proof that you actually accomplished something that people remember after all those years of striving to do just that,” added Thain, who first started singing in 1978.

But it’s not just the work she’s done in past, for which Thain was recently acknowledged.

In 1995, the then-Maple-Ridge resident launched an unplugged concert series for local songwriters called the Little Brick Church Series.

Well, with almost 50 of these concerts and counting under her belt at the St. Andrews Heritage Church Hall in Maple Ridge, Thain is resurrecting that series. It starts this weekend, a second show is set for September, and the final in December.

This event is all about “offering an intimate concert series for country-style songwriters,” Thain explained.

“The series was designed to provide an up-close and personal experience where songwriters could showcase original songs and the audience could enjoy their work in a quiet, friendly, and respectful space,” she elaborated.

“Ever since I had the privilege of performing live at the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville years ago, I have been hooked on the idea of providing a space where original songs are front and centre. I am proud to say that I was instrumental in starting an event for songwriters at a Country Music Week celebration in Calgary, and the event continues today,” she said.

“As a songwriter, I know the importance of singing live for people in a place where they can hear every word and feel the emotion firsthand. As a songwriter, I hope to make an emotional connection with my listeners and a quiet acoustic space is a great place to test new material and receive feedback on new songs.

“At the Little Brick Church we don’t charge for coffee and refreshments and everyone gathers in the break to talk about the songs and exchange ideas and talk as friends. We have created a very friendly event where the artists and the audience members can connect in a very pure, musical way.”

In the music business everything begins with a great song, Thain insisted.

“I wanted to create a quiet, intimate space where artists could reach out and touch the audience members, tell the stories behind the songs and where the song is gold.”

Sunday’s show will be the 50th concert in that venue since 1995 and Thain said she’s been proud to have hosted some of the “finest country-styled songwriters in Canada… Over the years, that little church hall has been filled with the original sounds of a virtual who’s-who of country songwriters including Gary Fjellgaard, Dick Damron, Tim Williams,  Beverley Elliott, Alan Moberg, Betty McDaniel, the Blue Shadows, Curtis Blayne, Nathan Tinkham, Gordon Maxwell, Lyndia Scott, Ken McCoy, Marlee Walchuk, Taylor James, John  McCallum, Terry Brennan, Ron Irving, John Mclaughlan, Jesse McRae, Rocky Swanson, Michael Booth Palmer, Clare Brett, Rick Tippe, Tom Rysstad, Ivan Boudreau, Ron Kalmakoff, Cameron Molloy, Bruce Coughlin, The Gords, Mike Sanyshyn, Tianna Lefebvre and more.”

This weekend’s event, being held Sunday, May 1, kicks off about 1:30 p.m. with guests and artists mingling. Singing begins at 2 p.m.

The show will start with an opening set by Thain, followed by a set by The Heels, a North Vancouver trio of friends and coworkers who, Thain said, have their “feet firmly on the ground.”

St. Andrews Heritage Church Hall is located 22279 116th Ave. in Maple Ridge, just off the Haney Bypass.

Tickets are $15 (including a light refreshment) or $12 for seniors and students.

Reservations are recommended at laurie@purepacificmusic.com or by calling 604-466-9773.

Something new coming

The Little Brick Church has attracted a loyal core of listeners and many are greeted by name at the door.

“With so much electronic entertainment out there and such focus on the visual aspects of commercial music these days, we love that the series is such a pure and simple listening experience,” Thain said.

“At the Little Brick Church series the audience truly listens with their ears, not their eyes as is the case with so much commercial music. We are particularly interested in having young people come out to the shows to experience the joy of live performance,” she added.

“In the Maritimes, there is a rich tradition of sitting around the kitchen table and playing a guitar, a fiddle or an accordion, even the spoons! In these impromptu sessions young and old mix and enjoy the magic of live music. Although not everyone takes a turn at playing at the little brick church, we are adding a new type of show called a Song Circle where there are many songwriters performing on one day.

A Song Circle is, Thain explained, where songwriters sit in a circle and play their songs in turn and the audience can hear not only the songs but the writers discussing the writing of the material.

The introduction of that Song Circle is set for Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2 p.m.

“We still have space for a few more singer-songwriters on that show.”Songwriters are welcome to contact me, Laurie at purepacificmusic@gmail.com if they are interested in being considered for one of the spots in the song circle.

CUTLINE: Laurie Thain was inducted into the BCCMA Hall of Fame earlier this month. The award was presented to her by fellow musician and partner Gordon Maxwell.

Dee Lippingwell Photo

Thain’s induction

Thain took what some might call a hiatus from the music industry for a decade, moving to Japan to teach English.

While in Japan, she completed her master’s in teaching – specifically focusing on teaching English to young learners.

But never able to give up her music completely, she also conducted and published classroom research on young language learners and did conference presentations on using music to teach English to children for Oxford University Press.

Upon her return home to B.C. in 2011, Thain opened Pure Pacific Music for Young Learners with music partner Gordon Maxwell. And now, she divides her time between teaching English and contract songwriting and recording for international educational publishers.

“I was absent for so long that I was really unsure about what to expect at the [hall of fame show]. To my great surprise I felt a very great warmth and appreciation… which helped me believe that I had in fact made a memorable contribution to the sound of country music in B.C.,” she said.

“The overwhelmingly warm reception I received from the musicians, fellow inductees and audience members was humbling and will ring in my heart for a very long time. The hall of fame induction show on Sunday will forever remain in my memory as one of the most validating and richest days of my life.”

Thain was among several industry and country music makers honoured with the hall of fame induction this past weekend.

She was joined in the ranks by Red Robinson, Ray Ramsay, Denny Eddy, Mike Norman, Farmer’s Daughter, Gerry Leiske, Tammy Ray, Redd Volkaert and John McLaughlin.

In addition to being honoured in early April, Thain, Farmer’s Daughter, Ray, Lee, and Eddy were also invited to performed during the show.

“I was also more than impressed with the calibre of musicianship in the band that backed all of the performers. I knew these players were the cream of the crop, but I had forgotten just how good they were. Working with such great musicians again was a real thrill,” she said.

“It was a rich afternoon in terms of refreshing old friendship and hearing about and reflecting upon the accomplishments of my fellow inductees. Hearing the presenters list of the awards and accomplishments of the other artists and industry professionals, that were being inducted, made me feel proud to be in their company.”

She commented on how proud she was that so many of them started off together in this province and went on to experience national and in some cases, international success.

“I will never be able to accurately express my thanks to the BCCMA for this experience or the gratitude I feel for the honour of being inducted into the hall of fame. This was a wonderful feeling of validation that coupled with the actual hall of fame induction put a very sweet bookend on my country music career.”

This year marks the 30th year since the first induction of Ray McAuley into the BCCMA Hall of Fame.

The show not only pays tribute to these “invaluable champions” of B.C. country music history, but also gives back to help the BC Country Music Association educate the country musicians industry builders of tomorrow, explained vice-president and former Langley resident Linda Corscadden.

“We all have a responsibility to celebrate and encourage the artists among us and to let them know that their music does matter and that it is important,” Thain added.

“The music industry is a tough road and through it all, having the support and appreciation of your family and fans can sometimes make the difference between staying in the business and losing heart and turning to some other career,” she said during some reflections on the celebratory event.

“Now, more than ever, I can say to up-and-coming artists ‘Use your talent to the fullest. Even when you feel that nobody is listening and that your music doesn’t matter, as I often felt, keep going and love the art in yourself.’ You may be surprised, as I was on April 10, that more people out there were appreciating your work than you could even imagine. One more word of advice, ‘Never throw out your cowboy boots, you never know when you will need them’.”

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