Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 45 seconds
Everyone has a story. Canadian Alicia Montplaisir is able to perform her one-woman show, Walking My Heart Home – a mix of songs, poems and dance ā at St Luke’s, West Holloway thanks to crowd funding, friendsā generosity and www.patreon.com fans. Interview by Nicola Baird.
To be honest Alicia Montplaisirās c/v is slightly confusing. Sheās a fairy from St Joseph de Sorel, a French-speaking part of Canada, who has been based in Islington since 2014. Sheās also a licenced desire map facilitator (enabling her to help you find work and a purpose to your life in a manner prescribed by Danielle La Porte in the Desire Map). Sheās also a singer song-songwriter based in N7.
No surprise then that when Islington Faces waited to meet Alicia at the new Barn cafĆ© on Holloway Road IĀ had no idea what to expect. Turns out that Alicia is a lovely woman. Sheās wearing arty get-up, but thatās normal for London ā and thereās not a hint of wings or wands.
But sheās clearly finding 10am a bit early for an interview.
āIām not a morning person,ā says Alicia sipping a freshly-squeezed orange juice (itās Islington Faces who is mainlining black coffee). But there are several reasons for this. Often itās because she is dealing with the severe pain caused by a chronic condition that can steal her energy. But itās also because she sometimes works on songs at the very dead of night. Last May while rehearsing at 2am (2am!) on the public piano at St Pancras International station Alicia was recorded by a passer-by who popped it on to Time Outās Facebook page. That clip went viral and has now been shared 172,000 timesā¦ āI was learning the Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga. Itās really hard to sing,ā says Alicia who absolutely nails it in the video and is rewarded with spontaneous applause from two random passers-by and a couple of high-vis clad cleaners.
https://www.facebook.com/TimeOutLondon/videos/10152867962172405/ (May 2015)
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Throughout the interview Alicia is unable to resist singing along to the radio, whatever tune comes up from Ed Sherrin to Rock n Roll. āMy mother teaches music so I started learning piano when I was five,ā she explains. āI never did any grades, but every year we performed. Then I started singing at eight, and around 11 had classical lessons. I just learned every song I could and performed everywhere,ā she explains. By the time she was 18 she was able to take over her mumās students when her mum took a break to look after her unwell mother.
Although Alicia, now 28, can teach and helps finance her shows, and cover her rent, by teaching French conversation to adults and French nursery rhymes to children she is adamant that, āFor me creating and performing come before teaching. I do not intend to make a career out of teaching. But who knows?ā
To keep her voice in practice sheās joined the choir at St Lukeās, Vox Holloway, which is currently focusing on gospel songs for a concert in June but has recently performed original material about mental health issues at a fundraiser for Islington Mind and performed at the Barbican during the Shakespeare Weekend on 6 March in A hum about mine ears, which was based on The Tempest.
St Lukeās plays a big role in Aliciaās life. āIām always there,ā she says ā making it the natural venue for her gigs (next date to be confirmed, see how to buy tickets below). āMy concert is a very personal experience. I wrote the songs and there is some poetry and some dancing. Iāve had really positive feedback. After the performance people have said how touched they were and how they related to the material ā it can be very healing which Iām glad about because I share very personal stories about pain and depression and one song is about a friend who died from suicide ā so I bring up health, mental health and self-care.ā
Thatās why Alicia asks her audience to be 16+. āItās a 70 minute solo piece in which I explore the darkness and light of self-discovery, love and growth. I donāt want to think about filtering myself so I may or may not curse during the concert. In my mind there is an age before 18 where those topics become important, 16 seemed reasonable to me and is loosely based on maturity more than age,ā she says.
What does Alicia Montplaisir like doing in Islington?
Islington has a similar vibe to where I lived in Montreal for eight years, in the north east of the city.
- Candid CafĆ©: A personal favourite when it comes to meeting friends in the afternoon or evenings. It opens at noon which suits me quite well! I love their sandwiches, the decoration and they usually play good music
- The Barn CafĆ©, 60 Holloway Road: A new addition to my regular spots. They serve brunch all day which is an absolute joy when it comes to having breakfast around 3pm
- St Luke’s church, Hillmarton Road: This is a second home. From dancing 5Rhythms to singing in Vox Holloway, I am also a member of the congregation. I regularly attend the Sunday service and have volunteered for the homeless night shelter during the winter
- I know it’s just on the other side of the line but St Pancras International will always have a special place in my heart. All nighters playing piano in the station and meeting strangers from all over the world. It’s simply magic.
More about fairies
āThree years ago someone gave me a Tarot deck made of fairies painted by Brian Froud and thatās the way I was introduced,ā explains Alicia who, when prompted, describes herself as a lone fairy, rather than a group-joining-fairy. āWe have the material world with chairs and tables, but thereās a certain level of magic that you may not feel. So if someone says āDo you think fairies are real?ā It makes me laughā¦ā And then Alicia starts laughing and itĀ is unclear whether sheās pulling my leg or whether itās blindingly obvious that the room is full of fairies playing hide and seek.
Thereās a good chance it might be the latter as Alicia adds cheerfully: āFairies are just laughing at you. They pop in and out of nowhere. My fairy godmother will appear out of nowhere and then disappear saying āIām offā. And if you ask āWhat kind of fairy are youā a fairy Is likely to say āIām not telling!āā
Like so many artists making a name for themselves Alicia is having to put up with a lot ā she rents a shared house, and to save money lives in a shared room. āWe each have a bed,ā she says āand work around each otherās schedule in the morning.ā Sheās also doing all sorts of odd jobs including kidsā parties and French teaching, despite her poor health, to enable her to work on her songs and show. But thereās no hint of irritation at facing these challenges. Instead Alicia says, ā Iām learning the ropes of how to develop patron, thanks to crowd funding supported by her friends’ generosity and www.patreon.com whereĀ people pledge to support what I do. But I am very lucky and have got wonderful friends who sometimes give me extra money.ā
Alicia Montplaisir may work on a financial shoestring but itās one clearly brightened by fairy dust and her own amazing voice. Do go and like her Facebook page and, if you can, goĀ along to the next show she holds at St Lukeās.
- Tickets for Alicia Montplaisir’s concerts can be obtained by supporting the project on the crowdfunding platform Patreon, or by buying regular tickets on Eventbrite. Concessions are available. Price range Ā£8 – Ā£20.Ā
- Facebook page
- Desire Map Directory.Ā More aboutĀ Desire Map.
Over to you
If youād like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.
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This blog is inspired byĀ Spitalfields LifeĀ written by the Gentle Author.
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