Two local ensembles are in the running for Western Canadian Music Awards.
On June 23 the Western Canadian Music Alliance announced the nominees for this year’s awards and included among them were the Nanaimo-based Vancouver Island Symphony and Gabriola Island’s Kerplunks.
The VIS is up for two awards, Classical Artist or Ensemble of the Year and the Community Excellence Award, for the group’s latest album, A Quinary. The album features original work written for the VIS by five B.C. composers, including Dorothy Chang and Stephen Chatman, who both earned 2020 WCMA nominations for Classical Composer of the Year.
“This CD was done over almost eight years because we went one year at a time for each concerto to commission the piece and then it would be integrated in a season,” VIS conductor Pierre Simard said. “So we had those five concertos being performed live within our seasons for five seasons in a row.”
The pieces were all recorded at the Port Theatre. While the composers were working with the VIS they came to Nanaimo to participate in community outreach and interact with the audiences.
“We made sure the composers were on location,” Simard said. “They were here for rehearsals, they met in school settings, there were workshops where they went in schools and they talked about the role of composers, the craft of a composer.”
The album was originally going to be launched at the VIS’s Happy Birthday to Us concert in March, but that event and the final three shows of the season ended up being cancelled due to COVID-19. Simard said the award nominations provide a happy ending to the symphony’s 25 anniversary year.
“It’s sweetening the bitterness that happened with everything being cancelled earlier on,” he said.
Two-time WCMA winners the Kerplunks are nominated for Children’s Artist of the Year. Their newest album, Lullabies for Big Eyes, has already earned the band the 2020 Canadian Folk Music Award for Children’s Album of the Year and a Silver Award from the Parents’ Choice Foundation.
Kerplunks bassist Dinah Desrochers, who goes by Dinah D, said she was “thrilled” to receive the nomination. She said what’s special about the WCMAs is it’s a place to reconnect with the “fantastic family” of Western Canadian children’s entertainers.
“It’s a great opportunity to see and visit and chill out with all of these other people that are in our realm,” she said. “It’s a very different family from the normal music categories. It’s less competitive. Everybody’s a bit more pat-on-the-back-y.”
This year’s WCMA winners will be announced on Sept. 25 during a live-streamed event. In April Desrochers attended the Canadian Folk Music Award ceremony, which was streamed online with prerecorded portions. While she missed the performances, Desrochers joked that virtual ceremonies can have benefits as well.
“It was strange, but also kind of nice,” she said. “Because there’s no applause, your hands aren’t sore at the end of the night. You don’t have to sit there and wait to get up and pee; you can pee at any time. It’s kind of great to do live-streamed award ceremonies, actually.”
Fans of the Kerplunks can catch them as they kick off the Vancouver Island Regional Library’s 2020 Summer Reading Club with a live-streamed concert on July 2 at 2 p.m.
“We’ve played many far too loud parties in many libraries all up and down Vancouver Island,” Desrochers said. “We like to defy the rule of quiet in the library when the Kerplunks show up.”