(Re)discovering Le Balcon
January 27, 2016
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For the last few weeks, there’s been a new sense of excitement at St. James United Church, on Sainte-Catherine Street. At the back of the building, in room that was almost a secret until recently, you can now listen to live soul, funk, blues, show tunes and French chanson. Le Balcon is a cabaret that just opened in the space, and the first venue in the Quartier des Spectacles to offer a dinner-and-show format. Relive your musical memories, dance, and enjoy a great meal created by one of the city’s most acclaimed chefs, all in the same evening.
We spoke with Julien Robitaille, co-owner of Le Balcon.
You recently moved to the Quartier des Spectacles after eight years in Old Montreal. Why?
We approached the city and the Quartier about a year ago to help us find a new space. We were told about Dawson Hall, located at the back of St. James United Church. We fell in love with it. The church was ready to reveal this treasure to the public, and liked our formula. A year later, here we are! The Quartier des Spectacles is a place with an incredible variety of artistic options, and we wanted to add another one with our dinner-and-show format.
Tell us about the church where Le Balcon is located.
It’s one of Montreal’s biggest Protestant churches. It was built in 1889 in the Gothic style. The church is in the front, but the building also has a hidden concert hall, which is where we are. The public is barely aware of the space, so it makes a visit even more special because you get to discover one of the city’s heritage gems. When patrons come to Le Balcon, they enter through the church’s main entrance on Sainte-Catherine.
What kind of shows are you presenting at Le Balcon?
We have a cabaret setup where we have shows in several musical genres, from soul to chanson to Cuban music. The concerts are produced especially for Le Balcon by artists such as Kim Richardson, Dawn Tyler Watson, Freddie James, and Meredith Marshall. On Saturdays we focus on Motown, soul, funk and R&B. People come dance to classic tunes by Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Barry White or Stevie Wonder, performed by a terrific band and singers. Thursdays, we often pay tribute to French chanson by artists such as Dalida, Brel or Piaf. And, once a month we also have Flamenco dance show. Fridays are thematic nights: music from the 60's or Latin music, and musicals, inspired by Broadway show tunes.
You’re among the few venues in Montreal with a dinner-and-show format. What kind of food are you serving?
We’re working with Helena Loureiro (Portus Calle, Helena), one of Montreal’s most prominent chefs, known for her Mediterranean-style cuisine. The menu changes every night and always has a fish dish, a meat dish and a vegetarian option, as well as delicious appetizer and desserts. So the experience really is gastronomic as well as musical.
What’s an evening at Le Balcon like?
It’s definitely the only night of its kind in Montreal, because there just aren’t many places with a comparable format. The cabaret style is very popular in the United States, but it’s often done in very big spaces. Our space is more intimate, and people really appreciate that. The audience is close to the stage and the musicians. People arrive, eat, enjoy the show. There’s always a great atmosphere, and guests of all ages love to get up and dance!
In addition to regular theme nights, you also present special shows, including one for Valentine’s Day.
Montreal’s Queen of the Blues, Dawn Tyler Watson, is putting together a jazz, soul and blues revue for lovers. The first part will be very laid-back, and the second half will get people up and dancing.
463 Sainte-Catherine St. W.