• Jonathan Rudnicki

In the name of the arts

Music and cuisine combine at Mackenzie King estate


The tea room restaurant in Gatineau Park is helping to reawaken the arts by organizing events at the Mackenzie King estate, combining cuisine and musical performances as part of their ongoing Porch Concert series.


Esmerine performing at Dabadaba, a concert hall in San Sebastian, Spain, in 2018. From left to right: Rebecca Foon, Jamie Thompson, Phillipe Charbonneau, Brian Sanderson, Bruce Cawdron. Photo courtesy of Bruce Cawdron
Esmerine performing at Dabadaba, a concert hall in San Sebastian, Spain, in 2018. From left to right: Rebecca Foon, Jamie Thompson, Phillipe Charbonneau, Brian Sanderson, Bruce Cawdron. Photo courtesy of Bruce Cawdron

Tegan Schioler, owner of T&Co. and Café Pat at the Mackenzie King estate, said the Porch Concert series is a change of pace for the estate and gives people a new reason to visit the serene property.


Schioler said she originally teamed up with her friend and accomplished musical producer, Gabriel Estrin, to organize an outdoor concert at the estate in September 2020.


The duo fuses their passions of cuisine and music to celebrate art and culture, Schioler said, emphasizing that the Gatineau Hills are full of local talent to support.


“It has been a labour of love — for the love of music and culture,” Schioler said. “This is all in the name of the arts.”


On Sunday, July 25, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., attendees can expect a slightly different atmosphere at the Mackenzie King estate: attendees will enjoy a picnic lunch by Yannick LaSalle, award-winning chef de cuisine at Les Fougères, and later an outdoor concert performed by Juno-award-winning group Esmerine.


Esmerine co-founder Bruce Cawdron said the group is looking forward to playing for a crowd again as restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic ease.


“I think it’ll be a great way for Esmerine to start up again because Esmerine is more of a listening band, so playing to people in that venue who have just eaten a magnificent meal from Les Fougères — it will be an interesting pairing.”


Cawdron, who plays the marimba and the drumset, describes Esmerine’s music as a chamber rock quartet — meaning it is a string trio with percussion. “It’s like classical music, if the musicians had access to amps and pedals to fool around with their sound,” Cawdron explained.


Cawdron has been a musician for over 30 years, coming out of the Montreal post-rock scene from the late 1990s. In 2007 he moved to Wakefield, where he runs his acupuncture business.


Esmerine’s last show was in 2019 in central France. During the pandemic, there wasn’t much in terms of performing opportunities, said Cawdron.


In what Cawdron called “down time,” Esmerine produced a new record over the pandemic, and is planning to release it in the spring of next year. According to him, the band was thinking of playing some new tracks at the estate on July 25.


Attendees will hear instrumental music that will transport them in ways they didn’t expect, and the outdoor setting will have a significant impact on the experience, he explained.


“To be outside on a nice day will have such a large effect, and then there’s just the fact that people will be seeing live music again,” Cawdron said, “I’m totally excited, it’ll be great to see what it’s like.”


Tickets for the July 25 and Aug. 15 show are on sale for $125 each at porchconcertseries.com. COVID-19 protective measures include a questionnaire, pre-assigned seating, physically-distanced lunch tables and chairs, hand sanitary stations, increased washroom cleaning, mask-wearing, and sign-in upon entry for contact tracing.