As the sun set last Saturday evening on Inverlorne House, 18-year-old Ben Heffernan kept his small audience captivated with his soaring voice and thoughtful lyrics that show a maturity beyond his years.

Firebox Sessions: Ben Heffernan – Moving On

'Moving On' by Ben Heffernan recorded live in St. Thomas at Inverlorne House on May 15, 2019. The Firebox Sessions is proud to present our sixth recording, featuring Ben Heffernan and sponsored by Railway City Tourism. 'Moving On' is a song about knowing when it's finally over. Follow what Ben is up to on his website: Heffernan and Parker Booth will be opening up for Nathan Bishop MacDonald at Inverlorne House this Saturday for the After Dark: Inverlorne Edition.Songwriter: Ben HeffernanPerformers: Ben Heffernan & Parker BoothAudio recording: Mike KerkvlietAudio engineer: Mike KerkvlietVideo production: Grayden Laing (Laing Studios & Establish Media)Camera Operators: Grayden Laing and Mike Kerkvliet.Special thanks to Ben Heffernan & Parker Booth for coming out to work with us!Look for more from Firebox Sessions soon! If you or someone you know is interested in playing, shoot us a message.94.1 myFM CBC London CBC Music CTV London St. Thomas Public Library

Posted by Firebox Sessions on Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Ben was the first of two groups to take the stage in Inverlorne’s historic library on May 18 – an event dubbed “After Dark: Inverlorne Edition.” The show was one of several house concerts that have already taken place at the St. Thomas Heritage House. It was also part of Railway City Tourism’s new After Dark series that seeks to showcase St. Thomas’s abundant local talent and unique venues.

Photo by Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media.

A Night to Remember

After Dark: Inverlorne Edition was an intimate event with only 40 tickets available, all of which sold ahead of time. It featured Ontario-based singer-songwriters Ben Heffernan and Nathan Bishop MacDonald, delightful appetizers courtesy of Elgin Harvest, and a variety of locally made beverages from Caps Off Brewing Co., Railway City Brewing, and Quai du Vin. All are a recipe for a great evening, but the cherry on top was truly the event’s intriguing venue.

Firebox Sessions: Nathan Bishop MacDonald – That Week in Montreal

'That Week in Montreal' by Nathan Bishop MacDonald recorded live in St. Thomas at Inverlorne House on May 18, 2019. The Firebox Sessions is proud to present our seventh recording, featuring Nathan Bishop MacDonald and sponsored by Railway City Tourism and Ontario's Southwest. 'That Week in Montreal' recalls bitter sweet memories of time spent with a former lover who has moved on. Ben Heffernan and Parker Booth – Drummer & Instructor opened for this concert. You can watch one of their performances in the previous Firebox Session. Songwriter: Nathan Bishop MacDonaldPerformers: Nathan Bishop MacDonald, Devon Martene, and @Daniel BeargAudio recording: Mike KerkvlietAudio engineer: Marty LewisVideo production: Grayden Laing (Laing Studios & Establish Media)Camera Operators: Grayden Laing and Mike Kerkvliet.Follow what Nathan is up to on his website and Facebook pages: https://nathanbishopmacdonald.com to everyone involved in helping to pull this off! And special thanks to Nicole Rogers and Nathan Bishop MacDonald for opening their home to us. Look for more from the Firebox Sessions soon! If you or someone you know is interested in playing, shoot us a message.

Posted by Firebox Sessions on Monday, June 10, 2019

Located at 1 Wellington Street, Inverlorne House was built close to 150 years ago by Archibald McLachlin, a former St. Thomas mayor and one of Alma College’s founders. The mansion was designed with McLachlin’s Scottish roots in mind as well as Victorian architectural approaches. Always a place of cultural significance for St. Thomas, Inverlorne is now growing into a popular venue for intimate concerts, thanks to its new owners Nicole Rogers and Nathan Bishop MacDonald. Nicole believes that the historic home, though stately, offers a warm atmosphere. “There’s something about the intimacy of the library,” she says. “It’s not so small that it’s awkward, but not so big that you feel disconnected.”

Ben Heffernan and Parker Booth, a local drummer who accompanied the artist, both believe the same. Parker called the show “comfortable and intimate”: “The setting, the people, the dynamic – overall the experience was really good.”

Ben, who was born in London but grew up taking music lessons in St. Thomas, says it was good to be back and loved playing for the personable group. “It’s always a cool experience to be able to play and sit right up to people and almost talk back and forth with them. I like that.”

The duo was followed by a performance from Cape Breton-born Nathan Bishop MacDonald, a full time professional musician and co-owner of Inverlorne. Nathan had the crowd clapping, toe tapping, and singing along with his soulful songs, which were accompanied by a fiddle and mandolin alternately, plus a percussionist.

Inverlorne: A Labour of Love

Nicole and Nathan had it in mind to open up Inverlorne for house concerts as they were considering buying it in July 2017. Nathan’s Scottish heritage and Nicole’s love for the house as a young girl growing up in St. Thomas gave the couple an instant connection to Inverlorne. Nathan grew up on the East Coast, which has a strong tradition of house concerts, and as a musician himself, it was only natural to begin hosting concerts. Though they weren’t sure what the response would be in St. Thomas, Nicole says that opening up their home to neighbours, curious locals, and music fans has been “amazing.” All four shows sold out, and they plan on continuing to host music events quarterly.

The couple has worked hard to maintain the house while respecting its history, which Nicole calls “a labour of love.” In 2018, features like the roof and eavestroughs were repaired, but the look was kept the same inside and out. All trim, stained glass, and even the wallpaper is the same as when they first moved in. Aside from the dining table, which is original, Nathan and Nicole have outfitted Inverlorne with their own furnishings, but bought and made them to match the style of the rooms.

Enjoy St. Thomas “After Dark”

The concert on Saturday was not just an Inverlorne initiative, but actually a meeting of two new concert series. Inverlorne was just one stop on Railway City Tourism’s “After Dark” series, which began at the CASO Station in February and travels to the Art Centre next for a Parisian salon-themed night in July. Tourism Manager Megan Pickersgill says that After Dark showcases “how culturally vibrant St. Thomas is. We have an amazing amount of local talent and our venues and heritage is second to none.”

inverlorne house music series
Photo-ception by Grayden Laing, Laing Studios/Establish Media.

“Something unique we are doing with each subsequent After Dark is filming it music video style with Firebox Sessions, so even if people can’t attend a show, they can still enjoy the vibe from the comfort of their own home.”

Regarding the Inverlorne Edition, Megan comments, “The venue was fascinating, the music was exceptional, and people had a really great time. We loved seeing a mix of people and demographics come out to enjoy this local show, and I think there was a ‘wow’ effect of knowing that such talent and amazing spaces exist in St. Thomas!”

If you missed it…

To keep up to date with the next After Dark event, follow Railway City Tourism on Facebook or visit their website.

To attend the next Inverlorne concert, follow along with Nicole and Nathan on Inverlorne’s Facebook page.