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“The show must go on,” that old entertainment adage, is being put to the test as never before, and a relief fund for the cause is now bulging. The National Arts Centre has announced that the RBC Foundation and Sirius XM Canada have signed on to support the Facebook-National Arts Centre Fund for Performing Artists.

The fund is dedicated to the live online series #CanadaPerforms, which kicked off with a concert on March 19 by Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy. The informal show, with no audience in the room and with the musicians keeping a recommended two metres apart, was streamed live from Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studio in Toronto.

Initial support for the NAC-co-ordinated endeavour came from Facebook Canada, whose $100,000 gift was subsequently matched by Slaight Music. Now RBC and Sirius XM Canada have each contributed sponsorships worth $200,000.

The live-streamed performance series was originally expected to run through the month of March. With the added support, it has been extended into May.

The NAC is handling applications for $1,000 grants for 45- to 60-minute online performances by professional artists in disciplines that include music, dance, comedy and theatre. It says it has received more than 3,500 applications and that more than 40 performances have collectively received more than 1.3 million online views. Most have been musical performances by artists ranging from Winnipeg troubadour William Prince to Edmonton Symphony Orchestra principal cellist Rafael Hoekman.

Beyond the #CanadaPerforms shows, live-streamed events are happening by the hundreds, with varying standards of quality and technical expertise. The short recital by Mr. Hoekman and guest pianist Jeremy Spurgeon, which took place on stage in an empty Winspear Centre, was plagued by choppy sound.

A scheduled show last weekend by singer Serena Ryder was postponed. Ms. Ryder, in a Facebook post, said she would donate the proceeds from her online performance to the Unison Benevolent Fund, a charity that provides emergency financial and counselling services to members of the Canadian music industry.

According to Unison, the number of requests for its assistance has increased 1,900 per cent since the coronavirus outbreak, an upsurge of almost $200,000 of aid a week.

Because venue staff have been laid off and musicians are unable to tour, Unison has launched a special $500,000 COVID-19 relief program. Seeded with a $250,000 donation from the Slaight Family Foundation, the fund will be used to buy groceries and defray housing costs and medical expenses.

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