This Vancouver teacher puts on a nightly balcony concert for her neighbours

Once Vancouver’s nightly applause dies down, and the windows slide shut, and the pots and spoons are stowed, a second act launches.

Its star is Ineke Lievens, and her stage is a small, wooden balcony at the top of a four-unit home in the city’s Kitsilano neighbourhood.

Her audience? A dozen or so neighbours who shuffle into an alley each night, keeping their distance from one another. As music starts drifting from two speakers, joggers slow their pace and cyclists come to a stop.

The spectators look up as Lievens raises her microphone and breaks into song.

WATCH | Lievens performs one of her nightly concerts:

Ineke Lievens started singing a few weeks ago for her neighbours during a nightly cheer for frontline health care workers battling COVID-19. 0:44

“It’s been really special,” the 47-year-old songstress said Saturday.

“It’s people connecting through music in a time where we’re all living something incredibly unique.”

Lievens, a trained actress who has performed with the Royal National Theatre in London, spontaneously debuted her nightly concert one weekend in late March, after her husband suggested she perform a song using their stereo and microphone.

Neighbours instantly embraced the performances, and noticed when Lievens took days off.

‘My heart is so happy’

Her stardom further catapulted in early April when her 16-year-old daughter, Thalia, posted a video of Lievens performing on the social media app TikTok.

“She’s wonderful,” a viewer commented on the 15-second video, which had garnered more than 29,000 likes as of Saturday.

“My heart is so happy with this,” said another viewer.

It’s also given Lievens, a drama teacher at Vancouver’s Gladstone secondary, newfound clout with her teenage students, a number of whom are among the front-line workers she’s celebrating. 

“They work in London Drugs and grocery stores and in their parents’ restaurants,” she said. “They’re trying to still give us some services and survive.”

Lievens says she’s now on a first-name basis with neighbours she hadn’t met before her shows. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Lievens has now settled into a groove, performing Monday to Friday with weekends off to give her neighbours a break.

She uses that time to find new songs, aiming for slower ballads earlier in the week and ramping up the beats on Thursday and Friday.

Lievens admits stage fright strikes 10 minutes before showtime. 

“But I say, you know what? It’s about connecting with people,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect and I do what I can.”

That connection has led to memorable moments, including singing Happy Birthday to a 15-year-old neighbour who later texted her a message of gratitude, she said.

The next day, Lievens sang Happy Birthday to the teen’s mother.

As for the show’s grand finale? That will depend on when COVID-19 restrictions are eased, and the audience’s appetite, she said.

“I’m going to keep going until people start throwing rotten tomatoes at me.”

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at [email protected].

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