Some of the brightest lights of Montreal’s music scene came out Thursday evening to help inaugurate a Mile End park renamed after fellow musician Lhasa de Sela.
De Sela was a popular Mile End-based singer and songwriter who died in 2010 at the age of 37 after a 21-month battle with breast cancer.
Following her death, the Mile End Citizens Committee launched a campaign to have de Sela commemorated with a park named after her in the neighbourhood that the American-born singer had called home for most of her adult life.
The committee approached the City of Montreal with a petition to rename Clark Park between Clark Street and St-Urbain Street at Van Horne Avenue after de Sela.
Thursday evening’s inauguration of Lhasa de Sela Park marked the successful end of that campaign.
"She was a Mile End citizen and I might say an ideal Mile End citizen in many ways," said Susan Bronson, who worked on the campaign to rename the park after de Sela.
Luc Ferrandez, mayor of the Plateau Mont-Royal borough, and Manon Gauthier of the City of Montreal’s executive committee officiated the opening ceremony.
The festivities featured performances by Patrick Watson, the Barr Brothers and Sarah Pagé.
The event was also attended by de Sela’s father, Alex Sela, who told CBC News of his daughter’s early days as a starving artist in the neighbourhood.
“We would come with groceries for her refrigerator. There was nothing in the refrigerator, just a little plastic pig that would ‘oink’ and turn around and around in circles when the light came on. She had nothing,” he said.
He said she could only envision life as a singer and was determined to make it as one.
“She said, ‘Poppa, I’m a singer. If I can’t make my living singing, I’m done. I’m not going to do anything now except what I must do,'” he recalled.
De Sela's brother Mischa said his sister's music spoke a truth that struck a chord with her many fans.
"Her music spoke to something essential in their humanity, it brought something very real but in magical terms and that's something that everybody wants to feel, a bit of a magic in their lives," he said.
Performer Sarah Pagé said the park is a fitting tribute to de Sela's love of the children in her life, including her nieces and nephews.
"To have a place named after her where kids can run around, there's nothing more appropriate," she said.