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Old Dorchester church gets new life as music hall

Area resident Randy Geddes has turned a former church in Dorchester into a performance space that has seen award-winning, critically-acclaimed musicians cross its stage.
Area resident Randy Geddes has turned a former church in Dorchester into a performance space that has seen award-winning, critically-acclaimed musicians cross its stage.

DORCHESTER, N.B. – An aging village church has been given a new lease on life thanks to a local resident’s lifelong love for music and his desire to spread that passion to others.

Randy Geddes says he feels like he’s been living his dream since he bought the former Baptist Church in Dorchester just over a year ago.

“It’s just been so much fun,” he says.

The 135-year-old building, which was badly in need of a new roof, underwent a number of renovations and upgrades in the months following the purchase as Geddes worked to convert the church into a performance venue.

Shepody House opened up for its first show last June.

Randy Geddes heavily renovated a former church in Dorchester to create a performance space for local and visiting artists.

Geddes says his main goal in opening up the music hall was to host shows that would connect local audiences with award-winning, critically-acclaimed musicians – and so far he has done just that.

“It has turned out to be so much more than I imagined.”

From Ray Legere to Nudie, Theresa Malenfant, Dave Gunning, Mason’s Tender, Valdy, Garnet Rogers, Furlong & Smith, and more, Shepody House’s first season was an unbelievable success, with some shows even being sold out.

Geddes says so far, the feedback has been encouraging, from both the audiences and the musicians.

“The response has been wonderful.”

He says there’s nothing like an old church for acoustics and the musicians who have entertained at Shepody House so far would tend to agree.

“The performers say they really enjoy the sound and the atmosphere here.”

Geddes, a retired RCMP officer, says he had been considering the idea of opening up a music venue in the area for the past several years, sparked by visits to Prince Edward Island where his son Mark is a musician and where his band regularly plays festivals and shows in small music halls.

Randy Geddes checks out the view from the large deck behind Sheopdy house.

“So it was always kind of in the back of my mind, if I can find the right place . . . ” says Geddes.

Then the church came up for sale and the rest, as they say, is history.

Built in 1882, the church has been a mainstay in the community for more than a century –with many longtime residents having been baptized and/or married there – and Geddes says he made every effort during the renovations to be sensitive to that history and try and preserve some traditional elements of the building. The baptismal, for example, still remains at the front of the sanctuary and the main structure of the building, including the steeple, has not changed.

The church is still very structurally sound, says Geddes, and the location simply can’t be beat.

Not only does the venue offer breathtaking panoramic views of the marsh and Dorchester Island in the distance, (with a new back deck recently built on to enjoy those surroundings), geographically it’s a prime spot to draw in musicians who are visiting the Maritimes and may be looking to round out their tour. Geddes says it’s an easy jaunt to Dorchester from other points in the Atlantic provinces and so “from a business point of view, you can get it to work for both parties.”

Shepody House, which will kick off its second season on April 2 with Ray Legere & Acoustic Horizon, can seat about 110 (or 70 for a cabaret-style show) with shows being held every two weeks. Mainly a roots venue, the spotlight is placed on country, bluegrass and folk music performers.

Upcoming shows include Juno Award-winner David Francey, the acclaimed Atlantic String Machine, Nudie, Theresa Malenfant and Katey Day, and former Great Big Sea musician Sean McCann. For more information, visit the Shepody House’s Facebook page.

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