With the COVID-19 pandemic cutting a hurricane-like path through the live entertainment industry, the National Arts Centre and Facebook Canada have banded together to present live online presentations by Canadian performers. Professional musicians, dancers, comedians, theatre artists and more are encouraged to apply for $1,000 grants from a $100,000 relief package funded by Facebook Canada.
Called Canada Performs, the series kicks off Thursday at 2 p.m., with a concert by Blue Rodeo members Jim Cuddy and Colin Cripps, along with Cuddy’s musician sons Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley. Adhering to social-distancing protocol, they will stay 1.5 metres apart from each other while performing live, with no audience, from Blue Rodeo’s Woodshed Studio.
Musical artists including Serena Ryder, William Prince, Irish Mythen, Erin Costelo and Whitehorse will share online performances in the coming days, with more to be announced. The National Arts Centre will receive and administer applications for grants supporting 45- to 60-minute online performances to the end of March. The focus of the support will be touring performers in a variety of disciplines.
Fears over the spread of COVID-19 and restrictions on public gatherings have had a devastating effect on entertainers. Comedy clubs, music venues and performing-arts centres across the country have closed their doors for the time being.
The National Arts Centre itself has cancelled all its presentations until April 5, affecting everything from its staging of the Tony Award-winning play Copenhagen to a visit from the Dutch contemporary dance company Nederlands Dans Theater to concerts by Canadian music artists Moscow Apartment, Laila Biali and Louis-Philippe Gingras.
The Governor-General’s Performing Arts Awards, scheduled for April 25 at the NAC’s Southam Hall, has been postponed until next spring.
“Bringing amazing performing artists to Canadians is what we do," said Heather Gibson, NAC executive producer of variety and popular music. “Having to cancel and postpone so many performances has been heartbreaking, but we hope this collaboration [with Facebook Canada] will provide some short-term relief.”
In response to the coronavirus calamity, artists have taken to giving free online concerts, including recent performances by Jann Arden (from her home in Alberta) and Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Dan Mangan (from an empty concert hall in Toronto).
Casualties in the Canadian music business alone include the cancellations or postponements of the Juno Awards, Canadian Music Week, the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Charlottetown and the East Coast Music Awards in St. John’s.
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