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Coronavirus: Jazz festival organizers bring live music back to Saskatoon riverbank

Music fans gather near the South Saskatchewan River as Heidi Munro and Scott Patrick perform at the free “Summer Nights Series" on Aug. 15, 2020. Kevin Tobin / Supplied

SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival organizers have brought live music back to the riverbank in Saskatoon.

The 34th edition of the summertime event was originally scheduled to take place July 3-12 but was postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Read more: Saskatchewan native Andy Shauf on Barack Obama’s summer playlist

“We were really looking forward to celebrating our 34th anniversary this year. But, of course, due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control, we’ve suspended the operation,” artistic director Kevin Tobin said.

“On average, the (10-day) festival draws roughly 75,000 people each year. Roughly 20 per cent of our audience comes from out of town so generating, roughly $7,000,000 in economic impact.”

“Roughly 60 per cent of all the musicians that perform at the festival are from Saskatchewan … our musicians that we support during the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival have just been decimated by the lack of activity. Venues have been struggling.”

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Throughout the summer, jazz festival organizers searched to a new way to fill the musical void in the city.

“To bring some optimism back to the community and I think we’re all missing arts and live music is certainly a huge component of the fabric of Saskatoon,” Tobin said.

“The goal is to just to bring some optimism, to bring some joy, to support our musicians (and) support local business.”

Read more: Drive-in rock ‘n’ roll shows at SaskTel Centre cancelled

With public health restrictions relaxed over time, organizers were able to come up with free “Summer Nights Series” in behind the Delta Bessborough Hotel.

“With the updates to the (Re-Open Saskatchewan) phase with live entertainment, we talked to our partners at the Delta Bessborough Hotel. They were interested in bringing live music back,” Tobin said.

“Right now, we can max out at 90 people … the Bessborough has been extremely experienced in social distancing protocols, and have been just a fantastic partner.”

Tobin said the initial response was very successful right off the bat with performers Heidi Munro and Scott Patrick.

“We reached that maximum capacity throughout the entire evening and had more people who wanted to attend. But thankfully, everybody, hopefully, the next number of shows, those folks who couldn’t get into the one on (August) 15th can get back and see some of the great music we have coming up,” Tobin said.

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“It’s really great for us to be back presenting live music and seeing the response and the enthusiasm from the audience.”

The last two remaining concerts will feature the Connor Newton Trio on Friday and Charly Hustle on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival announced their festival dates for next summer to be July 9-18, 2021.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

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To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Coronavirus: Safety and financial concerns factors for postponed summer festivals – Apr 17, 2020

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