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Shair Ulrich (the author and acclaimed singer/songwriter)

Bluebird North: A Short Story

By:Shari Ulrich | Published:1/14/2010

Amy Sky and Marc Jordon staged the first Bluebird North in Toronto in 1994.
In October of the following year BBN established itself in Vancouver with a premier show at the Rowing Club, produced by Ron Irving. I took over the reigns in 1996, and apart from three shows produced by Ron and Roy Forbes in 1998, I have been the producer ever since.

Part of my mission was always to get music out of bars and onto a proper space intended for listening.

In June 2005 we moved to our current, and I have no reason to doubt, permanent venue, The Roundhouse, the historical building where steam trains were turned around on revolving plates, which was revitalized for Expo 86 and is now The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre.

The Roundhouse is a vital cultural hub in the centre of Vancouver and has embraced Bluebird North as an important part of its arts and community initiative.  We're in the Performance Centre, a black box theatre with fantastic sound that seats 130-150 people
Performers love it, audiences love it, and we've been playing to full houses for the past four years.

Although the song circle is a time-honoured tradition in the U.S., Bluebird North helped established it in Canada as a popular way to hear a number of writers in a single, charmingly informal concert setting.  It is reliably one of the most entertaining evenings of music one could hope for, rich with amusing anecdotes and banter between performers, and a relatively rare glimpse behind the songs.

One obvious feature of BBN is to help raise the profiles of lesser known writers by placing them in context with well-known artists.  Now that Bluebird North has a nation-wide profile, the thrill for me is being able to provide a sizeable and enthusiastic audience for artists from all over the country, songwriters who may be legends in their home communities, but have never been heard before in Vancouver.
Breaking into a new city can take years, and is usually financially prohibitive. But BBN can hook up a new performer with an informed and appreciative Vancouver audience in a single night, winning them a good foothold for a fan base.
It's so rewarding to watch it happen. Christina Martin from Halifax is a perfect example of a stellar talent from the other side of Canada who had never played in Vancouver and was thrilled to have a place to play with a wonderful sound system and a built-in audience that just loved her.
When S.A.C. did the national BBN tours in 2007, I was able to have Dala on the western swing. They had not only never played Vancouver, but had never seen the Pacific Ocean!  It's so gratifying to be able to provide that opportunity for writers.
It is great that S.A.C. has taken the initiative to establish the event in other cities, and on June 2 we will actually have events happening in four cities at once – Vancouver, St. John's, Winnipeg and Ottawa.
To me, this is a national songwriter's association at its best – bringing our songs and songwriters to the people.