A concert series organized by the Sudbury Performance Group is not only providing local musicians with some much-needed work, but also the opportunity to “return some balance and hope in their lives,” according to Rod Bazinet.
Bazinet, a local artist active in the Sudbury music and theatres scenes who often plays with his daughter Kassie Taylor, is performing in the Sudbury Performance Group’s second annual Northern Arts Festival concert series, which will be livestreamed from The Coulson every Thursday until April 29.
“COVID-19 has been devastating to the arts and music industry, locally, provincially, and nationally. We are one of the few industries that have been completely overlooked by many of the (government) supports,” he said.
“Most artists and musicians have not performed shows since last March, making it a full year of lost earnings and opportunities to play. This has posed a significant challenge financially and mentally for many of my peers who made music their primary sources of income.”
Bazinet describes himself as “fortunate” because he’s been able to play solo and duo performances with his daughter, including some shows last summer as resident performers on the North Channel Cruise Line out of Little Current and a handful of both live and virtual performances during periods when restaurants were open for small crowds.
However, he knows many artists who have not worked at all since the start of the pandemic – especially those in production, theatre, dance, lighting and sound.
Some artists who made their living by travelling in large productions shows, bands, and on cruise lines have been unemployed and forced to find other ways to make a living.
The Northern Arts Festival concert series, he said, will give the folks who work behind the scenes an opportunity to get some work.
“It’s a hard thing to work through when you’re a very social, extrovert performer living in a world that dictates you avoid people and don’t perform. The forward thinking of SPG to move forward with this music festival is amazing,” he said.
“They could have just folded and said they had to cancel because of the lockdowns, but they forged ahead knowing what this meant to performers and our listening base. We are all missing the energy and camaraderie that comes from a live performance.”
To stay connected with his audience during the pandemic, Bazinet tried engaging fans through virtual shows streamed via Facebook Live and Zoom.
While they were very well attended at first, as time wore on, it became harder to launch and advertise these shows.
Organizations like the Sudbury Performance Group, the Social Planning Council of Sudbury and Café Heritage have sponsored virtual shows, but outside of that “it has been very difficult to navigate and co-ordinate.”
“If our world stays any longer in this lockdown, I would like to see us find ways to support our local theatres, bands, and tech guys. They need opportunities to showcase and play or we risk losing them. I fear what this will do to our culture and community in the long run,” he said.
“Music lovers can support artists right now by attending shows, staying, listening, interacting, and turning it up. Support us as we all look forward to getting together again in person soon. I encourage everyone to attend virtual live shows, expose your children to live music, and contribute in any way you can to ensure we don’t lose our artistic community.”
The Sudbury Performance Group concert series hopes to bring an experience as close to a live, in-person show as possible.
“With the provision of sound and lighting during the concert series, I am hoping we can create a more immersive performance with higher quality sound and sight that will give our listeners a short escape and opportunity to be reminded that live music is alive and stimulates emotion and memory,” he said.
“I hope it brings back positive memories, and thoughts of a time when we were together. I hope it encourages kids to play music, and I hope that somebody says, ‘wow, I felt that.’”
Sudbury Performance Group president Mark Mannisto announced the launch of the virtual Northern Arts Festival.
“We are happy to partner with eight local artists to produce a two-month concert series that will be streamed live every Thursday from The Coulson here in Sudbury,” he said.
“We realize the importance of supporting local music artists, who have suffered tremendously since the onset of the pandemic, so we figured we would proceed with our concert series despite the roadblocks that COVID-19 throws at us.”
The schedule for the concert series is as follows:
- March 18th: Rod Bazinet
- March 25th: Naked Soul
- April 1st: Phil Morris
- April 8th: Edouard Landry
- April 15th: Scott Mitchell
- April 22nd: The Hits of Elton John
- April 29th: Marc Serré
Performances run from 7 to 9 p.m. on the Sudbury Performance Group’s Facebook page. Each performance is free.
The Sudbury Performance Group concert series is made possible through the support of the government of Canada, the Province of Ontario, the Ontario Arts Council, SOCAN and the City of Greater Sudbury.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/SudburyPerformanceGroup.
Colleen Romaniuk is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter with The Sudbury Star. The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.