How’s everyone doing out there? (June 22 edition)
The summer is a time 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 to see how the last few months of have gone for them. We’re 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?
James Keelaghan – Juno-winning singer-songwriter and artistic director of Summerfolk and the Stewart Park Festival
“I’m really glad I started therapy about a year and a half ago so I could beat the rush,” James joked as he chatted to me in the car on the way home from Owen Sound (don’t worry; he was on hands-free). “I’m so unusually calm about the whole thing.”
It’s not that James has come through the COVID-19-related concert cancellations less scathed than other artists. He was two shows in to a 16-date tour with Jez Lowe when the other 14 got cancelled.
He should’ve been spending this month finishing off a new album before hitting Mariposa and the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Then he was going to look after Summerfolk and Stewart Park, head off to Ireland and then do a tour of the U.S. in late September.
“I think I lost five festivals, a trip to Ireland and probably 25 to 30 concerts,” he said.
But recently he’s learned how not to stress out about the things he can’t control
“That’s an entirely different place for me,” he said. “If this was four years ago, I’d just be tearing myself apart with worry.”
Instead, James is taking things in stride and trying to figure out what comes next, while working with his festivals to figure out how to program online and keep audiences engaged.
“We’ve been lucky because the granting organizations have come through for us,” he said, noting that the funders have encouraged them to keep their grants and offer as much programming as they can in allowable ways.
Summerfolk is looking at repurposing archival video footage and creating a new original show of some kind. It’s also highlighting the artisans and food vendors that would normally be at the festival on its Facebook page. And it’s planning to convert its storefront location into an actual store, selling local music and artisan’s wares – possibly even hosting small concerts when they’re allowed.
And James is still working on that new album. He’s got seven songs written and another three in the works!
Lan Tung – Erhu player, composer, leader of the Orchid Ensemble
“I take it as a break from our busy lives. I am rather relaxed about the situation,” Lan said from her home in Vancouver, referring to all of the COVID-19-related concert cancellations.
She’s now dividing her time between administration and practice.
“I have been catching up with reports and taxes and making grant applications when the deadlines come up,” she said.
Lan was supposed to perform in Japan and Europe this year with the Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra, but that’s off now. So are tours to Mexico and Poland with Taiwan’s Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, shows in Alberta with the BC Chinese Music Ensemble, and her regular spring tour to the US with the Orchid Ensemble.
She was also supposed to produce the Sound of Dragon Music Festival this month, but of course, that too has been postponed.
“Since I don’t have repertoire to prepare for an upcoming concert, I have time to practice just to enjoy practicing,” she said.
She’s also had time to work on mastering a new instrument: the Mongolian horsehead fiddle.
“When the theatres reopen, we will plan our events accordingly,” Lan said. “Meanwhile, there are a couple video projects in the planning. Also, Orchid will finish up a new CD when we are allowed to go back to the studio to record additional tracks.’
Seán Donlan – fan
“As a fan, in some ways, we’ve got more music online than we would’ve otherwise had,” Seán said, speaking from his home in Kamloops, where he works in university administration. “It’s a bizarre benefit of the situation.”
Now that he’s a parent, Seán doesn’t spend a ton of time going to live shows anyway, so the uptick in online releases has been a bonus.
Work has been keeping him busy, what with rejigging the grading and exam systems due to COVID-19, so he seldom has time to watch a full streaming concert, but the steady stream of new videos posted on Bluegrass Station and other sites has been delightful, he said.
He also discovered an Americana Facebook group late last year called “I’m going where there’s no depression,” and he has been participating in it regularly.
Seán had been hoping to see SOME live music this summer in the form of the city’s local music in the park series and a trip across the border, but those are off.
He also had to forego doing his Americana radio program on campus radio for a few weeks while the access to the station was barred.
But, he said, he used that time to create Spotify playlists, and he’s been back on air for about three weeks now.