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Commentary: Rossland's newest music venue, loaded with history and potential

Imagine the scene: 88 people fill a century-old room, surrounded by local works of art. To your left the ten foot tall arched windows of the former bank afford spectacular views as the sun dips behind the snow capped mountains. Above you, ornate beams adorn a ceiling that is as much a piece of art as the works hung on the surrounding walls. In front of you is a small raised stage and atop that is a beautiful Canadian singer songwriter with an eclectic style who easily fills the room with her captivating and booming voice even when she puts down the guitar and goes a capella. All around you, attentive members of our community listen, sing along and fully appreciate the beauty that surrounds them.

 
Now think back just a few short years to when the old Bank of Montreal building, beautiful as it is on the outside, sat as a vacant, fading gem—a hole in our downtown core. Quite a contrast. Sitting inside the Rouge today, you couldn’t help but feel optimistic about Rossland's future.
 
Raised spirits radiated around the full house in perfect harmony with the sweet sounds of Coco Love. There seemed to be a communal vibe of pride and happiness--as if we all shared this great secret that is life in Rossland.
While the transformation of the old BMO building is still underway, the revitalization it has brought to town is already evident to anyone who has browsed the gallery, got their hair cut in the salon, shopped for new shoes in the basement, picked up a pair of skis in the old law office, met up for a Saturday morning run outside or had a painting framed in the basement.
 
Prior to Fletcher Quince purchasing and beginning renovations on the building not even two years ago guessing, dreaming and mentally planning what could work in that space was as much a favourite local sport as are skiing and mountain biking. Now seeing the results so far, it’s safe to say that our biggest hopes and dreams for what that space could become have been realized if not exceeded.
 
Rossland now has a venue that can compete with some of the best the country and world have to offer. Whereas Vancouver has the Orpheum and the Commodore, Halifax has its Neptune Theatre, Toronto its Pantages and Glen Gould theatres, the Rouge easily ranks up there with the best in terms of acoustics, visual presentation and overall feel. Sure it’s much smaller than other venues, but where it wins is in its character. The space is very “Rossland.”
The century-old wood, now softened by time, reverberates not just with room filling sound but also with 100 years of history. Who knows, there are likely even a few ghosts of days gone by singing along in perfect harmony.
 
A worthy successor to the late, lamented Fire Hall, the Rouge will surely continue to attract acts that otherwise wouldn’t consider a 3,000 person mountain side town for a show.
 
Coco herself opined between songs that “You guys need to somehow recreate this space and franchise is across the country.”
 
Coming out of the concert hall around 10:00 PM and taking the first few steps down the stone stairs leading onto Columbia Avenue, one couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with just how lucky we are to live in such a city. Where else do you find a 3,000 person town that has a real downtown, not a strip of parking lots and mini-malls? One that has a vibrant and bursting at the seams cultural scene complete with musicians, painters, sculptors and more? One that has nature in all its geographic splendor sitting mere steps from all of this along with a great ski hill, excellent golf course, top notch bike trails and endless outdoor recreation pursuits all within easy walking distance of one another? Indeed Rossland is a rare bird.
 
Where did all this come from? The arts scene didn’t just happen on its own, nor did the recreation scene. Neither is the quality of life entirely defined by the hard physical attributes of the town. The root spark of it all is in the people who call Rossland home. Indeed, Rossland is a small city populated by a seemingly endless host of passionate people. Passions vary and that’s a good thing, but where we all seem to cross paths, regardless of history seems to be our general passion for life.
 
Rossland lives life well. So let’s raise a glass to the Mountain Kingdom, and I look forward to doing great things with all of you.