A few eyebrows were raised when the Chemainus Song Circle announced it would be restarting its casual gatherings on May 31 at Waterwheel Park.
It was perhaps the first musical get-together on Vancouver Island since the COVID-19 lockdowns began in mid-March. All winter, the Song Circle had attracted about 20 players and singers to its bi-monthly gatherings at the Chemainus Legion. And folks were eager to return to the park’s bandshell for the first time since last September.
In many ways, the bandshell was the ideal space, with its wide-open stage, excellent air circulation and room for 13-15 social distanced chairs. Several weeks of consultations with Island Health, the Municipality of North Cowichan and the Chemainus Valley Cultural Arts Society (CVCAS is the operator of the venue) resulted in filled seats since Day One for the first-come-first-seated events.
Since then, an assortment of guitars, accordions, fiddles, mandolins, harmonicas, banjos, stand-up basses and percussion instruments have filled the park with a variety of tunes including old-time, folk, classic rock, cajun and blues. For most of the summer it has been all acoustic with just a battery-powered amp for a single vocal microphone.
But that will change on Saturday, Aug. 29 when the Song Circle Showcase takes the stage for an afternoon marking the end of the CVCAS musical concerts that have been happening on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons for the past two months.
“It’s really a celebration,” said Steve Hughes, one of the organizers. “Despite what we’ve all been going through, we realize that music can be a cure-all for what ails us.”
Another organizer, Garry Lindell, agreed. “Everyone was so concerned about our physical health with the virus around, but we realized that the Song Circle kept us all mentally healthy as well.”
The Showcase will take place from 2-5 p.m. Contact tracing registration, sanitization stations and masks will be in place.