How’s everyone doing out there? June 1 edition
As we head into the summer, we’re approaching that time of year when artists, fans and industry people would normally be gathering at summer festivals and catching up after months of not seeing each other. That’s just one part of the summer festival experience we’re missing out on this year, but we’ve decided to do something about it here at Roots Music Canada. We’ve started calling up friends and colleagues in the music business – and we’re going to start reaching out to fans too – to see how the last two months of have gone for them. We’ll be featuring clusters of their responses in these columns. So without further ado, here is this week’s edition of How’s Everyone Doing Out There?
How’s everyone doing out there? (inaugural edition)
Daniel Bellegard – percussionist who has worked with major Quebec stars, such as Daniel Bélanger, Michel Rivard, Zachary Richard an Cirque du Soleil. His debut album, Anba Tonèl, focuses on the influence of European music on Caribbean music
Daniel Bellegarde has been in pretty good spirits since the arrival of COVID-19 because he’s working on a new album that he’s excited about, he said. But the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers has taken over his mind in the week since it happened. “I’m shaken, sad and outraged,” he said in French over messenger. “I’m not sleeping well at night.
He would’ve taken part in the demonstration in Montreal against the police actions, but he was concerned about safe social distancing, he added.
As far as his new record goes, it so far consists of four new compositions and five traditional numbers, he said. The music is Haitian, but with influences from across the Caribbean, including Martinique and Guadeloupe. There’s a piece inspired by Cuban tumba francesa and another inspired by a polka from St. Lucia. There’s also an homage to the Haitian classical and Merengue-danzon composer Ludovic Lamothe.
Daniel is hoping to have Dave Gossage of Orealis play Irish whistles on the album and Nicolas Boulerice of Le Vent du Nord play hurdy gurdy. Already, it’s been quite challenging recording in the era of social distancing, Daniel said. He’s sent scores and/or click tracks to the players, and they’ve laid down parts separately for the most part. If things continue to run smoothly – or at least as smoothly as possible under the circumstances – Daniel hopes to have the album out in the fall of 2021.
Tom Coxworth – host of Folk Routes on CKUA, Alberta
Anyone that knows Tom knows that he thrives on social interaction, especially if it involves making things happen in the folk world. So it’s probably no surprise that the physical distancing rules that have come with COVID-19 have been really hard on Tom.
He lives alone and shares custody of his dog with his former partner, and he misses the dog when it’s not around, he said.
“It’s tough to get up each day and realized we’re limited by external forces that we don’t control,” he said. “It’s causing certainly myself to think differently every single day about what I’m doing and how I’m contributing.”
Tom has been keeping the blues away by keeping busy with household repairs and upgrades – working on the roof, painting some rooms indoors and improving his garden. He’s also making an extra special effort to ensure his show contributes positively to people’s lives during the pandemic.
“I have more of a responsibility than I ever have to my listeners to watch each and every piece of music that I play and to add a positive spin to everything,” he said. “So that for the two hours on Sunday morning I take these people away from where they are and put them in a great frame of mind.”
The audience is “listening deeper,” he added, “They’re commenting more. They want to be engaged more.”
Interestingly, to hear Tom describe an experience in the late winter, it sounds as though he might already have had COVID-19. He came home from the Folk Alliance International conference in February with flu-like symptoms and was asked about them at the border, but at the time, he said, the border security agent was only concerned with whether or not he had encountered anyone from China and not with the symptoms themselves. Tom was down with the bug for six weeks, he said, and he made two trips to the emergency room complaining of not being able to breath. At the time, nobody was testing people for COVID-19, so he’ll never know if that’s what he had. All I can say is, thank goodness he recovered.
Rob Oakie – executive director of Music PEI
While artists have suddenly found themselves out of work due to COVID-19 related lockdowns, Rob Oakie has never been busier; Music PEI is trying to help artists on the island weather the storm.
It just finished presenting a series of 40 streaming concerts called the Tiny Island Concert Series, which offered good money to regional artists for live streams on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
One of those shows was a benefit for COVID-19 relief efforts, and that raised $10,000.
Rob and his team also just presented their first online conference – which included the Canadian Songwriter Challenge.
The program paired artists from across Canada with PEI artists, and the seven pairs each wrote and recorded two songs – remotely, of course.
“We put them together with some amazing award-winning producers,” Rob said. “It was amazing.”
Outside of work, Rob said, things on the island are pretty chill. There are no active cases of COVID on the island, so people are started to relax, he said.
“Not sure if that’s a good thing,” he said. “[They’re] still only allowing 10 people outside and five inside but I think that is changing soon.”
Rob has had a chance to play music with an old friend and also to see his grandchildren, he said.
“I’ve managed to get enough real people time that I’m ok,” he said.
Steve Edge – artistic director of the Rogue Folk Club in Vancouver and host of The Edge on Folk on CiTR
With governments banning gatherings of more than 50 people and the Rogue Folk venue shut down indefinitely due to COVID-19 concerns, there really isn’t a lot that Steve can do work-wise right now.
Fortunately, the Rogue is a beneficiary of the federal wage subsidy program, so it’s been able to keep its staff on the payroll to help support its community. In fact, when I spoke to him, Steve was planning to ask staff to start checking in with the Rogue’s volunteers to see how they’re doing.
Another current project is creating an online history section of the Rogue’s web site, celebrating the Rogue’s 33rd anniversary. The feature sees Steve reproducing often humourous anecdotes about concerts that took place at the Rogue “on this day in history.”
Outside of the Rogue, Steve’s continued to produce his radio show from home and send it to the station program director to slot into the automation system.
“I’ve managed to get Garage Band to do what I expect it to do,” he said.
He and his wife, who are both of an age that makes them extra vulnerable to the ravages of COVID-19, have been doing their shopping during seniors hour and wearing masks in public to protect themselves, he added.
Steve’s been ignoring the news as much as possible and trying to get out for regular walks too, he said, and their coop in the False Creek area of Vancouver has a rooftop balcony that the other 140 residents have apparently not discovered, Steve said.
Sadly, their building is due for envelope work this summer, which will make staying home less than pleasant. As luck would have it, the Rogue office is also out of commission due to a plumbing problem.