Joining a welcome group of newcomers, Breeda Desmond and Mike Bell find life in Point Roberts is “even better than we could have believed.” And they didn’t find us online. Their path to the Point is a story of close encounters with friendly locals.
It was Mike who first discovered Point Roberts, or was it the other way around? Whitney McElroy’s brother first heard Mike perform in an Irish pub in downtown Vancouver.
Shortly after, in late 2018, Whitney hired Mike for his first solo gig at Breakwaters. “I was on a break at the bar – the one shaped like a ship – going over songs for my next set,” Mike says. “Someone saw me sitting by myself, sat down beside me and said, ‘No one sits alone in Point Roberts.’” Mike doesn’t remember the person’s name. Could have been any of us, right? “He introduced me around, we all talked, and I took requests for the next set.”
But before that, it was through a shared love of Irish culture that Breeda and Mike met. He was playing at a music festival in Whistler, she was visiting from LA.
“I went for the lead singer in the band,” Breeda laughs. “Something I never thought I’d do.” That was the summer of 2015. They were married in 2017 at an Irish music festival in Ocean Shores, Washington. “The same festival where he’d proposed – from the stage – the year before.”
Talking to the two of them, I’m having trouble concentrating on anything but the music in Breeda’s voice. Born in West Cork, Ireland, she has a lilting accent, rich in intonation – the rise and fall of long vowels – that makes me feel she’s singing to me. It’s grand.
Breeda immigrated to the U.S. in 2004 and became a citizen in 2016. Her business degree, earned in Cork, led to her to account management in a research firm. “I’m the executive liaison between the research team and our executive clients in the financial division.”
Mike was born in Prince Rupert, B.C., and moved to Vancouver to attend UBC, studying music composition and piano. He and several friends formed a lively Celtic band and busked in front of liquor stores. Mike laughs. “We called ourselves the Whiskey Dicks. We were young, it was funny and it stuck.”
They spent their first years of married life in LA where Breeda flourished in her career and Mike pursued new performance and teaching opportunities. “He teaches everything but blowing or bowing,” Breeda says. This means piano, guitar, ukulele, voice, drums, accordion … a partial list.
Multiple factors motivated their move to the Point. “Three reasons, really,” Breeda explains. First is Mike’s experience singing at Breakwaters. “The friendliness,” he says, “I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
“And then there’s the fires,” Breeda says. “People in LA were wearing masks before the pandemic … the air quality. California has really been beaten up in the last few years.”
And lastly, they are both able to work remotely. The garage is now Mike’s studio where he composes songs and teaches an international roster of students.
It’s only been a few months, but so far Breeda says they love the Point. “I had an epiphany in LA. I have many friends there but during the pandemic, people dropped off. But in Point Roberts, everyone is community. That’s how I grew up in West Cork. I love knowing the post office lady. And I want to get into horses again,” she says, bolstering my belief that a love of the land and of horses is bred in the Irish bone. Breeda has worked with horses for years – both training and riding.
“I grew up with this too, in Prince Rupert,” Mike says. “I love community and I can bike to the bar and back.” He smiles widely, and I think many are in for a treat at the bar. Mike’s band blends Celtic and Romanian gypsy music, with a horn adding a Latin vibe. His tenor voice is wide in range and rich in versatility.
“I prefer songs where I make use of my whole range,” he says. “Classic rock like Queen, R&B, and funk, like Stevie Wonder.” When writing his own songs, he composes for his broad range. “I also love the expressive differences singing in other languages offers. Latin music, French, the odd Italian aria.” Dabbling in many genres, Mike likes to “keep it interesting.”
Overarching all things they enjoy about the Point is their love of nature. “We’re in the forest and at the beach every day,” Mike says.
“I love the trees, I love the peace at night,” Breeda adds. “I hope the Point stays the same. Pictures can’t capture the beauty.”
During my time with Mike and Breeda, there are two other big personalities in the room – Mo, the mastiff/great Dane cross, and Lily, the great Dane.
How big are they? Dogs so big when I’m seated, they can look me in the eye. So big, does Breeda really need a horse? Why not saddle up the dogs?
Still, when I leave, Breeda comes with me for an encounter with friendly locals of the equine kind. For more information, visit www.mikebellmusic.com