For a unique brunch experience, head to Le Balcon!

HOWzik performing at Le Balcon as a part of their Gospel Brunch event at St-James United Church on February 26th 2022. SYDNEY GASTALDO/The Concordian

The Concordian was invited to attend a lively gospel brunch hosted by Le Balcon on February 26

Le Balcon is a cabaret located in the rustically beautiful St. James United Church in downtown Montreal. It offers dinner shows as well as gospel brunches.

The Concordian was invited to attend a gospel brunch on February 26th, featuring local band HOWzik. It was a dazzling experience that energized all the senses. 

When arriving, guests were escorted through the church to the Le Balcon area. As soon as one walks in, the amount of care and thought put into the space was evident. The interior design was splendid, with each piece of decor complementing the other nicely. Red lights illuminated beautiful stained glass windows, matching perfectly with red tablecloths and the stage’s red curtains. Eagle-eyed guests could spot “Le Balcon” faintly written in white letters on the thick curtains.The tables were decorated with black handkerchiefs and magnificent clear yellow rectangular candles. Several large black and white photos of the various artists that have performed at Le Balcon adorned the walls of the space. The interior design wasn’t the only thing that enhanced the experience, though: as guests dined, gospel music played in the background. 

Yogurt was served as an entrée. It contained blueberry jam, crispy granola, honey, and almonds. Afterwards, guests had a choice of crêpes or strata for their main meal. The strata contained egg and chorizo gratin, bread, aged cheddar, bell pepper, arugula, and herbed fingerling potatoes. In addition, there was a vegetarian version of this meal. The strata was described by another guest as savoury, fresh, light and refreshing but still filling. She added that the flavour combination was amazing and pesto added to the presentation. 

The other option, crêpes, were rolled with roasted apples, maple and salt flower caramel, and apple and spice jelly with crumble. They were delicious. The apple filling was smooth, tasty, fresh and juicy. The caramel added a kick. Overall, the flavour combination was mouthwatering. 

Along with the food, drinks such as mimosas and alcoholized coffee were available. 

After dinner came the main attraction: the band HOWzik. Before their set, the group introduced themselves and the history of gospel music. They told us we would be taken through the journey of gospel. They were right.

The group began with African songs such as, “Kumbaya” by Soweto Gospel Choir and “Nazo bondela yo” by Rosny Kayiba. The bands also presented on the history of the music they performed, stating they were ancestral songs from Africa that predated slavery. 

Afterwards, the group switched to a song dating from the period when enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas, called “Oh Freedom!”

The group then switched to a different era, in which the Christianization of enslaved people occurred and gospel music began to appear. The five songs performed in this phase were “Wade in the water we Dey,” “Très longtemps,” “Amazing grace,” “Let praises rise” and “Oh happy day.” The first two songs were performed before a break, which gave a chance for both the band and audience to relax and refresh. The last three songs were performed afterwards. 

Finally, the group performed three upbeat and uplifting original songs in French. These were “Cris de joie,” “Plus haut,” and “Apprends moi à t’aimer.” 

As the group sang, lights and visual effects enhanced the experience. Indeed, different coloured lights accompanied by dancing shapes projected on the walls around the stage served to further immerse the audience into the spectacle. Also, flashing  lights were used to add intensity. For example, during the “Nazo bondela yo” number, blue lights illuminated the stage and stained glass windows while white foliage-like shapes covered the walls. Given the slower pace of the song, the lights only flashed sparingly. In comparison, during the more upbeat “Yindule/Soki toko lingana” number, pink lights aggressively flashed while pink shapes, which occasionally turned white, covered the walls. Special effects perfectly matched the tones of the songs, as quieter more emotional tracks like “Wade in the Water we Dey” had fewer special effects while more upbeat songs like “Cris de joie” had more flashy effects. 

Another aspect that added to the immersive nature of the experience was the harmony between the band. The musicians and singers complemented each other perfectly. They even wore matching black outfits for the first part of the set. Then after the break, they wore matching white shirts and blue jeans. Harmony was not just found among their outfits, but also within their voices. Each singer also had a chance to shine. During different numbers, different singers took turns taking centre stage.

The band also energized the crowd by asking them to sing, clap, or dance along. For example, during the performance of “Wade in the Water we Dey,” the crowd was encouraged to sing along. This made the audience part of the performance which enhanced the experience. 

Overall, gospel brunches at Le Balcon are a perfect weekend morning activity for music lovers no matter their religious background. Every day, different artists perform at Le Balcon. Upcoming events include a Flamenco evening.

 

Visuals courtesy Sydney Gastaldo 

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