By Anna Horsnell
As much as artists need galleries, musicians need venues to play their music. Online videos and recordings can only go so far to satisfy both the listener and the creator of music. Nothing quite compares to a live performance. Whether on stage or facing the stage, the sound and energy soaks into your bones and quenches some universal thirst that just makes you feel good.
Located in East Margaretsville, The Evergreen Theatre appreciates the feel-good effects of music. As detailed on its website, “in its 20-year history, The Evergreen has developed from a local amateur talent event to a professional venue known across Nova Scotia, and further afield, as a surprising jewel in the travelling performance circuit around the Maritimes.” This year has been a challenge.
Artistic Director and Manager David O’Leary shared his feelings, “we have not been able to have a concert since March. It is very frustrating not being able to do what we were created for.” Half of the performers at Evergreen are Nova Scotians and the other half come from across Canada and occasionally from outside the country. They are all eager to perform live again, and Evergreen is cautiously opening its doors. O’Leary explains, “We are re-opening on a trial basis on Sunday September 13, with a concert by Evans and Doherty. Based on our experience with this show (which of course will feature full mask wearing and social distancing), we will decide how to proceed this fall. It is our hope that we can offer a fall and winter season of some sort, but this will depend on a lot of factors.” O’Leary adds, “Please support live music wherever you can find it. And if you are a local musician looking for a place to play and want to take on a do-it-yourself concert, our rental rates during the current situation are much more than reasonable. Call us for details.”
Approximately 30 kilometres away in Berwick, The Union Street has been nominated multiple years for venue of the year by both the East Coast Music Awards and Music Nova Scotia. Operating as both a restaurant and performance venue has provided more options, but still they have had to be very creative in moving forward this year.
Owner Lauren Bonner sat down to explain how opening seven days a week, and with a staff of over twenty, has emphasized her responsibilities even more this year. She also feels responsible to the performers who look to Union Street for part of their livelihood. With reduced seating, ticket prices have been restructured, extra performances added, and she’s worked with musicians to help offset their travel costs. She’s also considering live streaming performances as part of Union Street’s plans to adapt. Normally she spends at least one full day each week securing performers, working with various agencies, searching out musicians online, fielding inquiries, and checking out performances in person. How things continue to look and work in the future is still evolving, but Bonner is determined to persevere and the local community has been very supportive in understanding the new restrictions and guidelines. “Please come,” she smiles, “Think of the artists and musicians.”
Kate Adams is well-known in the local music scene and has been involved in organizing music events for many years through a multitude of venues. She agrees wholeheartedly about the challenges this year. “Our music series was booked for [North Mountain United] Tapestry this summer before COVID-19 hit and the concerts were cancelled one after another as the pandemic and the state of emergency dragged on,” she shared. “We do have one concert saved from the summer series list of cancellations. Kim Dunn will be here on September 20. I have looked very carefully at the COVID-19 restrictions and have created a protocol that will be as safe as possible for our audience. It will look different from our concerts of the past, but I believe the wonderful sense of shared community will remain and the healing that music can bring will be so very good for our weary hearts.”
The Union Street has a slate of performances booked into October, including Mo Kenney, Garrett Mason, and Ben Caplan. For full details visit their website at theunionstreet.com and check under Music, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.