As soon as I walked in the back door of the Harmony House in Hunter River, I was struck by the powerful and magical energy that greeted me. Mike Ross graciously showed me around the intimate venue which boasts a beautiful stage to an audience of just under 150.
Mike and his wife, Nicole Bellamy, are the new owner/operators of the Harmony House and I was struck by their creative and humble spirits.
We chatted in the lounge downstairs and their energy and enthusiasm filled the entire space. Though it was just a few of us sitting there, you could almost see and hear the hustle and bustle of a pre-show crowd.
Both Mike and Nicole are UPEI alumni (music) and they each have impressive backgrounds. We all chuckled when we talked about connections to PEI and what makes someone an Islander.
“Mike was born here but then raised away, and I moved here in grade four,” Nicole says between laughter, “so there’s debate on who’s an Islander and who’s not.”
They lived in Toronto for almost 20 years and moved back to PEI last year. I was curious what provoked a cross-Canada move during a pandemic and purchasing a venue during a time when gatherings are limited.
“It just felt right,” says Nicole with a smile.
Nicole and Mike officially became the new owners of the Harmony House in November and in eager style hosted a show on the same day as signing all the paperwork.
Before coming back to PEI and during her time in Toronto, Nicole freelanced and worked with various companies including Opera Hamilton, National Ballet, Opera Atelier, Canadian Children’s Opera Chorus, and Canadian Stage co. She is an operatic vocal coach, répétiteur, and a pianist. She is a solo recitalist and recital partner with a variety of singers.
Nicole also took an Arts Administration program because of her interests in learning the administration side of things. “I was interested to learn those kinds of skills that arts admin would teach,” Nicole reminisces. Those skills and experiences are certainly coming in handy now that she is managing the day-to-day operations of the Harmony House.
Mike is a musician, composer, director, actor, and general wearer of many hats. Notably, he was the founding director of music at Soulpepper Theatre Company in Toronto. He was an international fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and he composes for both the stage and the screen.
“I started in music and didn’t really consider myself an actor,” a humble Mike Ross notes.
Mike continued to discuss his ideas and passions about bringing people together and the ways in which music and story are instrumental in his life. “A lot of my work happens where music meets story,” he says.
Nicole and Mike bring so much talent, generosity, and kindness to the Island and to all they do. They aren’t just behind-the-scenes at the Harmony House, they are also performers who shine when they’re on the stage.
“We are passionate about building community and hiring local artists,” Mike says. Nicole agrees and adds, “it’s been a lot of fun to get re-introduced to the Island music scene and to experience the variety of talented musicians here.”
Together as one, Mike and Nicole describe themselves as “musically yin and yang.”
“My style is more unrefined rock and roll and Nicole is much more structured,” Mike smiles lovingly at Nicole, and she agrees.
This pair really brings heart and soul to their work and it is palatable when you walk into the Harmony House in Hunter River and evident in conversations with them.
“This first year at the Harmony House is basically a year of discovery,” Mike excitedly says. “We are predominately a music venue but we are open to other stage performances from Island artists,” Mike mentions as he ponders what a year of discovery may look like.
There are many exciting things planned at the Harmony House this summer including thier new production Inside American Pie, the return of The Island Summer Review with Patrick Ledwell and Mark Haines, and for the entire family, Allegra’s Magic Flute and Luka’s Fiddle.
“If you build it, they will come,” Mike notes as he gazes around the lounge.