Jazz Winnipeg will Jump in Spring with concert series


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Last March, days before the first COVID-19 case was detected in Manitoba, Angela Heck was hosting a media event to announce headliners for the 31st annual Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/02/2021 (757 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Last March, days before the first COVID-19 case was detected in Manitoba, Angela Heck was hosting a media event to announce headliners for the 31st annual Winnipeg International Jazz Festival.

“Somebody came up afterwards and said, ‘So, what about this (COVID-19) thing?’” recalls Heck, who had recently taken on the role of acting executive director at Jazz Winnipeg after a rocky year of staff departures and budget concerns.

“Two weeks later, we cancelled the 2020 festival.”

This March, the organization is carrying on with what it has become unavoidably good at: hosting online concerts.

Over the summer and fall, Jazz Winnipeg put on 16 livestreamed concerts featuring more than 100 local musicians. Suffice to say, staff have become comfortable behind the camera.

“We’ve got a very effective (film) team,” Heck says.

From March 11 to 14, Jazz Winnipeg presents Jump Into Spring, a four-day festival of 12 online concerts and workshops. The event is supported by a Safe at Home grant from the province and will include local musicians including Helen White, Andrina Turenne and Sebastian Gaskin, as well as national and international artists such as Charles McPherson, Reginald Lewis, Joanna Majoko and Tara Kannangara. The hour-long segments will be a mix of pre-recorded and livestreamed video.

“In some cases, artists are already set up to produce their own livestreams, which is something we’re seeing more of,” Heck says. “People who are predisposed to being creative are finding really creative and innovative ways to keep art alive and bring it to the people — I think that’ll be an interesting byproduct of this.”

The pandemic has also been something of a blessing in disguise for Jazz Winnipeg. The organization has been forced to reassess its priorities and has found new audiences in the pivot to online programming — although Heck prefers the term pirouette, “because you’re kind of going in circles sometimes thinking about what the next step is going to be.”

“We went online really quickly,” she says. “Interestingly enough, by going online… we’ve had similar levels of engagement than we would have had in person; we typically have about 40,000 people taking part in jazz fest and we did that easily online.”

Last year’s performances also attracted viewers from around the world, giving local talent an international platform.

The online funding model, however, is problematic.

“The challenge is, what are people willing to pay for tickets online when there’s so much free content out there?” Heck says.

Jazz Winnipeg has relied heavily on sponsors and donors amid the pandemic.

When asked about the likelihood of the return of the Winnipeg International Jazz Festival this summer, Heck says a large, in-person festival is unlikely, but jazz enthusiasts can expect a series of smaller virtual or live concerts throughout the year depending, of course, on public-health restrictions.


Twitter: @evawasney

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Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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