Alone together: Local musicians transition to web shows

Dozens of new entertainment venues have suddenly sprung up across the Sunshine Coast as musicians shift to online performances from the isolation of their living rooms, thanks to COVID-19. 

Regularly scheduled mini-concerts, some performed daily, have become a thing on Facebook, which has become the predominant live platform. Some people are attempting more ambitious projects like Friday Night Live, a virtual variety show featuring a series of back-to-back individual and small group performances. The show on March 27 helped raise more than $9,000 for local food banks through donations to Sunshine Coast Community Services (SCCS). An SCCS staff member told Coast Reporter that they are very grateful for all donations but cannot be certain just how much of the total raised on that day was prompted by the online music project. The needs of the food banks have a high profile in the community at this time and other fundraising efforts are also under way.

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Friday Night Live was organized by Gibsons artist and musician Verna Chan, who credits Jacqueline Gillis of Sechelt for the inspiration. “Jacqueline asked me if I could do it because she knew that I organized Music in The Landing [the Gibsons summer weekend music series], and because the food banks obviously are going to be running short of things. So, I just got on it,” Chan said in an interview. “And, of course, all the musicians that I asked wanted to participate.” 

A dozen acts were scheduled, including veteran local performers Joe Stanton, Sarah Poon, David Poon, Anna Lumiere, Deanna Knight, and Kevin Crofton. Devora Laye and Woody Forster of The Burying Ground, as well as Simon Paradis, were supposed to be the final performers but technical glitches cancelled their contributions. The event had understandable technical challenges as both performers and viewers struggled with Facebook Live’s learning curve. The key principle when viewing multi-act events, it turns out, is that when one performance ends, refresh the Facebook page until you see the next one come online. 

Chan said she is planning another fundraising music show for Friday, April 3 at 7 p.m. It can be found on Facebook at Friday Night Live. 

Another new local music Facebook venue is Sunshine Coast Quarantined Concert Series, a public group which as of this week had more than 650 members. “In the spirit of sharing, please post your musical stories, originals or covers, so that we may continue to share in a time of unexpected isolation,” wrote the group’s administrator. The page features both live and pre-recorded posts. Friday Night Live also can be accessed through that page. 

Among the other individual performances popping up were those by Stanton and Japanese-flute master Alcvin Ryuzen Ramos. Paradis was doing a daily series of 4 p.m. mini-concerts from his home. Some players have worked out the technicalities of playing simultaneously, yet remotely, with other performers, such as Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons, a professional cellist. Simons played with pianist and fellow New Democrat MLA Bob D’Eith on March 28, and plans another live webcast on Saturday, April 4 at 8 p.m. 

You can even square-dance in isolation, thanks to an online project by dance-caller Paul Silviera. Check out Shut-In Square Dance on Facebook on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

You can also find more local performance postings via the Coast Cultural Alliance, at www.suncoastarts.com

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