For this month, the Winnipeg River Arts Council features musician, Ray St. Hilaire. Although WRAC previously featured St. Hilaire as an artist, he has continued to pursue his musical career with great enthusiasm. He said “I’ve been performing with my band almost every weekend this past summer.”
Prior to moving to Lac du Bonnet, St. Hilaire worked as an industrial mechanic in Winnipeg. Eight years ago, he retired from mechanics and now lives with his partner Barb on the eastern shores of the Winnipeg River.
St. Hilaire plays multiple instruments including acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, and his new favourites – upright bass or double bass. When he was around twelve years old, he took accordion lessons but, when he heard the Beatles, there was no turning back. He switched to guitar. Now, although he travels all over with his band, he gladly makes time to instruct young guitarists. “I get great satisfaction knowing I’ve given them a skill they will enjoy for the rest of their lives,” he said.
For over forty years, St. Hilaire played in the local Winnipeg music scene. “It feels like I’ve gigged in just about every hotel or club in Manitoba, going as far north as The Pas and as far south as Emerson,” he said.
These days, he sticks closer to home and appears regularly at the Lac du Bonnet Personal Care Home. With his band, “Rice and Beans,” he also gets hired for much larger venues. They’ve played at Festival du Voyageur, 4P Festival, charity events such as Children’s Wish Benefit, and the anniversary gathering for Harley-Davidson Owners of Canada.
St. Hilaire loves motorcycles, especially Harleys, and loves visiting Mexico in the winter. While there, he often performs with his band. He also takes time to volunteer for local organizations and serves on the board of the Winnipeg River Arts Council. At big events, he shows up with a smile to help out and he even took a turn as its president.
This past summer, while he volunteered at the Fire & Water Music Festival, he felt inspired to write six new songs, with original music and lyrics. When asked what motivates him to keep practicing and performing, he said, “Music is so invigorating and at the same time relaxing – great medicine for the human condition!”