It's Never an Ordinary Night

By Helen Spitzer

Melissa McClelland has been a regular at Massey Hall since she was eight years old, brought regularly by her parents to see the likes of Gordon Lightfoot and Paul Simon perform, and later gracing the stage herself as a guitarist and vocalist with everyone from Blue Rodeo to Sarah McLachlan. These days she’s most known for her band Whitehorse, and riveting performances with her partner in music and life, Luke Doucet.

Q: I’m curious about your early memories of Massey.

Thinking back, my impression is that the artists there always felt close. My parents were big Lightfoot fans, so I saw him live several times. There was something so warm and inviting about that space: the feeling we were sharing something, as opposed to being merely spectators.

Q: So what was it like to be on the other side?

The first time I played Massey Hall I was opening for Jesse Cook, a solo performance. It was obviously intimidating, but the room made it easy to overcome. That space — it is an inspiring place to sing, because your voice just soars. I definitely took note. A couple of years later I played in Luke’s band, opening for Blue Rodeo, and we’ve both played there with Sarah McLachlan. I love that our experience with Massey has been this great Canadian community experience — we’ve had so many legendary artists take us under their wing, and help put us on that stage.

Q: What does it give you as a musician to have that connection?

It’s kind of everything. You write these songs in a solitary way. You can lose perspective because you’re so involved in your own workings. It is always a great release to put them in front of an audience, where they can change every night, and you can alter songs on the fly. It is this give and take. You know — the audience has a responsibility too, they are part of the performance. Everyone who steps into that building is thinking, “Something special is going to happen tonight.” It’s never an ordinary night.