With COVID-19 keeping musicians and audiences apart, one Nanaimo vocalist found a way to for those groups to reconnect.
Elise Boulanger and her band were scheduled to tour the province this summer, but those plans have since been “put on pause.” In the meantime she reached out to other local musicians similarly hampered by COVID-19 precautions and asked them to submit songs to be added to a Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo playlist on the music streaming service Spotify.
“I made it in response to COVID just because the community wasn’t able to go and see live performances and simultaneously the musicians weren’t able to give them and so I thought it was a small way to showcase the culture and the musical talent that exists within our community,” Boulanger said.
There are currently currently 32 songs by artists representing a variety of musical genres on the playlist. Boulanger said the musicians she spoke with were enthusiastic about about lending their music to the project and she hopes to continue adding more with the goal of creating “a local digital music box.”
“It’s kind of like a little a pocket of ‘What does this place sound like?’” she said. “If you were perhaps a tourist … although lots of people can’t do that right now, it’s like a little taste of it without being here.”
Boulanger has found other ways to keep the music going during the pandemic. This spring she gave a live-streamed performance from the White Room and she recently started offering “curbside concerts,” in which she and her band perform in driveways while neighbours watch while safely spaced apart. It’s a model she’s borrowing from local jazz singer Narissa Young, who has been performing in cul-de-sacs.
“I think it’s really cool because you don’t know what to expect, you don’t know where you’re necessarily going to be and you don’t know who is going to be there, so it’s kind of like a surprise goodie bag,” Boulanger said. “And I think it’s really great because it helps create neighbourhood resiliency, which creates stronger communities because if people know each other you can depend on each other more and have a stronger feeling of safety.”
She said she’s been encouraging the neighbours at her shows to get to know each other. At a concert last Friday listeners stuck around even when it unexpectedly started to rain and Boulanger had to turn off all her electrical equipment.
“We made it completely acoustic so I stomped harder than I ever stomped and I sang really loud and it was funny just how you didn’t know what was going to happen because of the unknown elements of playing outside,” she said. “It was very memorable, that one.”
The Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo playlist can be viewed here. Those looking to submit a song to the playlist or inquire about a curbside concert can reach Boulanger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-268-7464.