The 35th TD Halifax Jazz Festival will be virtual, but the changed event format will provide aficionados with even more ways to celebrate.
Running from July 14 to August 15, it will feature more than 30 performances, as well as the Jazz Labs Series.
“It's been quite a challenging year with the pandemic. But we are excited for lineup and how things came together,” said Jazz Fest Senior Program Manager Andrew Jackson.
“We are presenting as a virtual festival, and all concerts and events will be online. But I'm really happy about what we've put together.”
Though the festival is happy to be forging forward this year, Jackson said the virtual-only move wasn't an easy decision.
“We spent time monitoring the situation, and with the lockdown and the re-opening phases, it was just hard to predict the roll-out. Our top priority was keeping people safe,” he said.
“We felt it was right to go virtual and still be able to do what we do best. For us, we have always wanted to continue to supports artists. We couldn't sit back, do nothing and see what happened. We needed to provided gigs for artists and music for people.”
Last summer also saw virtual programming, but Jackson says this year will be easier with people more adjusted to the COVID-19 environment.
“For artists – and I'm a musician myself – we've always been adaptable creatures. This speaks to the resiliency of our artists in general,” he said. “I applaud those involved in doing virtual events, because it can be hard to create an energy with no audience. But these artists have my respect, and we have an amazing line-up.”
Those performing include P'Tit Belliveau, Measha Brueggergosman, Hillsburn, Kim Harris, Owen O'Sound Lee, and more. A mainstage performer is Halifax's own Ben Caplan, who also had to adjust to virtual performing.
Caplan, a city mainstay who often performance with band The Casual Smokers, said the shift was a challenge.
“At the beginning of lockdown, I had just finished a cross-Canada tour. I was a week away from flying to Europe,” said Caplan.
“I was going to do my theatre show and a tour, but everything was cancelled. We were kind of left flapping in the wind.”
But he soon had to make the transition to virtual shows, something he calls a “totally different medium.”
“I had to learn to meet these new challenges. Recording is one thing, and performing live is another. I quickly discovered performing on a live-stream is a weird, bastard hybrid. I had to learn how to meet new expectations,” he said.
Caplan says that having the Halifax Jazz Festivsl does allow for fans and music lovers to get an immersive experience.
“This brings an incredible series of masterclasses and entertainment from artists to this city. These are world-class people who execute amazing things on-stage,” he said.
“This expands the audience and gets more people into the music and genre. People get the chance to experience it right here at home.”
Caplan is happy things went ahead, even if they had to be in a virtual format.
“I lament that I won't be on-stage, but I really enjoyed recording this. I think about playing with a contrast of lights and production and a band behind me, but this is something new and different,” he said.
“I realize some will watch on their tablets, laptops and phones. It will be so interesting and a new challenge to connect with people, but this will be a lot of fun.”
Caplan sees many positives coming out of being involved with the Halifax Jazz Fest this year.
“I'm really hoping I can meet some new ears. While I have been around for a while, there are still more people who don't know who I am than who do. I'd love to get some new fans, and give people a respite from COVID-19 challenges,” he said.
“This is an opportunity to share and get audience participation from further afield. It would be nice to perform live, but I'm happy this will be shared further abroad.”
To learn more about the Halifax Jazz Festival, please visit halifaxjazzfestival.ca.