Student band BEYONCE add Irish folk to the Montreal music scene at Pub McLean – The Bowdoin Orient

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Perrin Milliken
PUT A RING ON IT: The student group BEYONCE performs in Montreal at Pub McLean. The band landed the gig after canvassing venues across the city.

After canvassing pub after pub in Montreal, student band Bowdoin Éireann Ye Olde Neo-Celtic Ensemble (BEYONCE) played their first Canadian show at Pub McLean in Montreal this past weekend.

The group formed in the fall of 2019 when Natsumi Meyer ’23 and Luke Bartol ’23 returned from their orientation trip.

“We were on a backpacking orientation trip and we kind of started talking about fiddle music, Irish music and Irish dancing during the four days we traveled together. Then after we got back, we formed the original BEYONCE, which was a club with Luke and me and our orientation travel manager, among other people who have now graduated,” Meyer said.

They later brought in Sydney Cox ’23, Mia Schwartz ’25 and Colin Vernet ’25. Schwartz became their “gig master,” often calling on cold dates to inquire about performances. When the band became interested in playing in Montreal, Schwartz lived up to their title. The call to Pub McLean was successful, but they didn’t know what to expect when they arrived.

“We didn’t know if the crowd would be receptive or if they would like the style of music we were playing, but it was definitely a hit,” Meyer said. “People were really into it.”

The members talked about the individuality of Irish music and how uniqueness seems to bring people together. They said that trend continued in their performance in Montreal.

“It’s so obscure that hardly anyone can really relate to it, but everyone can relate to it because it’s so specific,” Schwartz said.

Vernet echoed Schwartz’s sentiment.

“If you market to everyone, you market to nobody, so if you market to nobody, you market to everyone,” Vernet said.

The group felt that the show in Canada was particularly exciting and recognized that there was a thread of spontaneity in the setlists of each performance.

“We certainly read a crowd a lot or think about who is going to listen to us. And what I really like is that we’re never really set on the order in which we do things, and I think that helps our relationship with our audience,” Meyer said.

In Montreal, their sense of spontaneity came to fruition when a spectator asked them to play drums.

“He came up to us and was like, ‘Nobody’s playing drums. Can I?'” Schwartz recalled. “It sounded funky, but it was a lot of fun.”

BEYONCE, who is currently working on renaming herself Yonce, is focused on having fun as a group through everything.

“I think that’s the root of it. It’s cool to make money from these gigs and perform, but at the end of the day, we’re all having fun,” Bartol said.

Vernet plays the guitar and occasionally the violin; Schwartz mainly plays the violin and sings; Meyer fiddles, sings or dances in addition to occasionally drumming; Bartol plays violin and mandolin and Sydney Cox ’23 violins, dances and drums. Obviously, each member takes on a variety of roles within the band, each having varying degrees of knowledge about most of the instruments involved.

“We actually tried to do a song where we all spin our instruments because we’re almost at the point where we can all do anything,” Meyer said.

BEYONCE’s music has not gone unnoticed in Canada.

“People came up to us and said, ‘I need to give you a hug,’ or people were taking pictures with us,” Schwartz said.

The songs played by BEYONCE are mostly traditional songs passed down from generation to generation, which means that many who listen to them find songs that resonate with their personal history or traditions.

“It’s really nice to see how music applies to people, no matter how old they are. It’s really for everyone,” Schwartz said.

The group intends to record their songs, but for now they will continue in college and play whenever they can.

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