What we did during COVID-19
Starting in the Spring of 2020 when venues were locked down, the Victoria International Marina (VIM) began to create “noisehappenings” on the dock each Friday at 7:00pm to show support for the hospital workers. It was then suggested that a good idea would be to start to live-stream some music events from VIM following those sessions. There was no piano in the Marina so the idea was suggested to us by Ruairi Matthews of PK Sound and Darcy Beck of Darcy Beck Productions to live-stream those concerts from my nearby apartment in the Janion building which had a grand piano overlooking the new Johnson Street Bridge in Victoria.
Ruairi and Darcy convinced me to do this although I was at first skeptical of the quality of such events. The first one looked so good with all the camera work of Darcy Beck’s crew and it sounded so great that our Board of Directors came up with a budget to defray some of the expenses and stream a concert every week. These concerts were free to the public and were streamed on both Youtube and Facebook. Eventually a well-distanced audience of people started to form on the bridge on Friday nights outside my apartment and heard the music through Ruairi’s speakers on my balcony.
Our plan for 2020 had originally been to do our regular festival and mentorship school in Bamfield and then bring the results of all the hard work we do in Bamfield into Victoria for the first time and have a repeat festival in Victoria at VIM. MBTS’s motivation was to keep the plan for an eventual partnership with VIM alive for the future and at the same time be providing much needed music concerts for the public at no expense and with no gathering.
We did 9 of those weekly live-stream concerts in the Spring of 2020 followed by a 10th special event on Canada Day at the VIM at which Ken Lavigne and I presented a live-streamed concert at VIM with a grand piano provided by Tom Lee Music outside on the dock.
Following that there were a series of live-stream concerts from inside the VIM with no live audiences. VIM continued to sponsor these events providing the venue as an in-kind gift. This is what made it all possible. The first 2 were in August and a third was a November telethon-style fundraiser for the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and Music by the Sea from which we split the funds raised.
In January of 2021 we began to live-stream one concert at the end of every month up until June and they continued to be joint fund-raisers for MBTS and the Victoria Hospitals Foundation. And still the venue was donated to us by VIM. Some of the concerts were re-broadcast by CHEK TV bringing the benefits to a much wider audience. In June of 2021 some COVID-19 health restrictions began to be lifted so we proceeded with a small-scale version of our Mentorship Program in Bamfield. No concerts were permitted indoors at the Rix Centre in Bamfield but the artists did perform a concert outside at Brady’s beach for the community. Then they returned to Victoria and we presented a concert of their music they had rehearsed in Bamfield at the very first MBTS/VIM concert with a live audience since covid had started. The Hotel Fairmont Empress sponsored their accommodation in Victoria and we contributed a concert in the main lobby at Afternoon Tea. More restrictions were lifted in July and so we scheduled a festival of concerts to be at VIM in August with all of our equipment needs to be a sponsorship from long-time sponsor Long & McQuade. However, by the time we got to August there was another wave of the pandemic and so we rescheduled the festival for January of 2022. By that time the vaccine passport program was in place and we were able to present that festival. Hotel Fairmont Empress, VIM and Long & McQuade continued to sponsor.
It is hard to overstate the difficulties we have all experienced in this field of the arts and it was the enthusiasm and support of so many that convinced me in the first place to do all of the things we have done to keep MBTS alive. Thank you to all who tuned in and enjoyed those concerts. And thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, artists, and our Board of Directors for helping us through this period of time. And here we are now…poised to accomplish our original plan for 2020!