If you have fond memories of college coffee houses, of small halls filled with music created by singers, songwriters and acoustic musicians, then you need to visit The Company House on Gottingen Street, Halifax. This latest venue for Halifax’s vibrant music scene is the brainchild of Mary Ann Daye who saw a need for an alternative to rock bands and techno dance music. The Company House is both an ironic reference to Daye’s Cape Breton roots where her family lived in a company house — a home owned by the mining company, and a suggestion that company is welcome here. Daye spoke with Xtra about what led to this latest enterprise.
“I’ve been involved with music all my life,” says Daye, “and after twenty years of working in External Relations at Dalhousie, decided it was time to start living my passion.” The Company House is located in the city’s North End, sometimes unofficially referred to as Halifax’s gay village. “I wanted it to be in the North End since this is where we live and it is also the part of the city where many artists, writers and musicians live. It was also important, because I wanted to be part of the revitalization of the area.”
The Company House has a capacity of about 150 people, and the warm red walls and wooden floors create an intimate atmosphere well-suited for acoustic music. The licensed club is open from Wednesday to Saturday from 4 pm to midnight, but Daye is open to other possibilities. “There is wall space to display artists’ work and we’re hoping to set up bluegrass or gospel Sunday brunches and will make the space available for fundraisers and other events too. We’ve got a lesbian wedding booked for August.” Both Daye and her partner are long time organizers in the queer community.
Daye’s partner is Heather Gibson who ran the well-known Khyber Club and is the producer of In The Dead of Winter Festival for which The Company House was a major venue. The advice of Gibson and others has been very helpful says Daye but ultimately, the club is her “baby.” Getting the club ready took a tremendous amount of effort. “I’ve never worked so hard in my life,” laughs Daye. The work obviously paid off. “We’ve had a ton of compliments — people, musicians and patrons love the place and its warm and inviting feel.” Packed houses both for the opening and for the first night of the In the Dead of Winter Festival certainly augur well for the future of this latest addition to Halifax’s cultural life.