Busker goes from bus rides to the recording studio

Saanich musician stages concert for CD release Aug. 29 at Christ Church Cathedral

Esther-Ruth Teel can regularly be found busking at Victoria’s Inner Harbour. But it’s getting to her performances that is sure to catch a few eyes.

“It’s quite an interesting scene when I’m going downtown because I’m wearing a ball gown, wearing high heels, carrying my harp and taking the bus,” said Teel, adding she draws more than a few odd looks. “I have lots of interesting conversations.”

The 23-year-old Saanich musician is now getting ready to move from the serenity of the Inner Harbour to the ornate beauty of Christ Church Cathedral for the release of her new CD, The Sea is Wide.

“I was looking at all these songs and realized they all had this common thread of the sea, almost like it’s a character in a story,” said Teel.

Teel has always had a love for music, playing piano and performing in choirs, as well as earning a degree in voice performance at Victoria Conservancy. She will go on to study pipe organ at the University of Toronto in the fall.

Teel first picked up the harp about three years ago, only because an accordion wasn’t available.

“I was borrowing an accordion from someone and just messing around on it. They wanted it back and I was sad that I didn’t have my creative instrument,” she said. Her grandmother then remembered the Celtic harp tucked away in her basement that she received as an anniversary present from her husband, offering Teel a new vehicle for her creative expression.

Her CD came about from another chance encounter, when during a meeting a friend had asked what she wanted to be doing in the next year.

“I said I’d love to record a CD but I don’t know how to get started,” said Teel, adding a retired CBC producer happened to be at the meeting and offered to produce her CD. “Ian Alexander coached me through the whole process of recording.”

Teel said working in a studio is an entirely different experience than busking.

“The first time I heard myself recorded, it was just shocking. Music is usually this very transient thing, it’s there and then it’s gone. But then it was there and stayed there. It was strange to listen to this moment that was crystallized.”

But performing in the studio just can’t match the excitement Teel gets from busking downtown.

“I feel like it’s some of the most honest performance that I do. There’s no sort of class distinction, it’s not just people who can afford to buy a concert ticket,” said Teel, adding she draws some extremely diverse crowds. “A lot of people who are surprised by liking music that’s a little bit more classical in character. The people who are watching you are really choosing to watch you.”

Teel will be releasing her CD during a concert and reception at 7 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Chapel of the New Jerusalem in Christ Church Cathedral (911 Quadra St. use the south door off of Burdett). Admission to the reception is free, CDs cost $20.