Live music will fill Willows Park again Thursday as the Soul Shakers’ keyboardist Alexander Ferguson returns with singer-songwriter Helena Descoteau as his opening act.
Descoteau, 26, will perform her first live solo exhibition on Aug. 19 near the Kiwanis Willows Beach Tea Room as part of Oak Bay Parks, Recreation and Culture’s Summer in the Park Concert Series. This will also be the singer-songwriter’s first time simultaneously singing and playing keyboard in front of an audience.
Descoteau has been playing music most of her life and started writing songs when she was younger than 10.
“My dad’s a musician so my exposure to music was from an early age,” she said, adding that her family has a photo of her playing the piano at age one.
She was initially enrolled in piano lessons at a young age, also playing, acting and performing in choir throughout primary and secondary school and going on to train at the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Oak Bay. She now regularly practices in her home studio when not working at the Belfry Theatre box office.
Descoteau is inspired by many genres, though mainly pop and classic rock. Major influences include Elton John, Billy Joel and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. Her lyrical themes include love, mental health struggles and her own ups and downs and personal life experiences.
“That’s part of how I process my feelings,” she explained, admitting “there’s a little daunting edge to sharing that piece of me.”
Included on her original set list for Thursday’s performance is “I wish I was a river” which she wrote and composed at 15. Descoteau said the piece came to her at a point in her life where she felt stuck and trapped, so to speak.
Ferguson, a friend of Descoteau, put her name forward to the district during the search for a suitable opening act. Ferguson recently performed at Willows Park with the Soul Shakers and returns this Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. with his own Alexander Ferguson Band, offering a groovy blend of pop, soul, funk and jazz.
With the concert at Willows Park originally planned for summer 2020, Descoteau is grateful the district was still interested in featuring her as a musician this year.
She said she would love to continue performing locally and plans to check out Victoria’s open-mic scene.
“I’ve really appreciated the time (during the pandemic) and it worked really well for me because it allowed me to perform and write and perfect my craft.”
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