Dinner and a show might seem like a bygone pastime at this point in the pandemic, but the West End Cultural Centre and Jazz Winnipeg are striving to bring it back.

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This article was published 17/9/2020 (393 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Dinner and a show might seem like a bygone pastime at this point in the pandemic, but the West End Cultural Centre and Jazz Winnipeg are striving to bring it back.

The organizations have teamed up for a new concert series called Cookin’: Local Music, Local Food, which kicks off Friday and runs weekly until Oct. 30. Ticketholders will be treated to an evening of catered food from Feast Cafe Bistro and music from local artists.

Jorge Requena Ramos, WECC’s artistic co-ordinator, came up with the idea as a way to get people in the venue safely and bolster the city’s music industry.

"We’re trying to expand our community engagement with as many organizations as possible this year, especially organizations like the (TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival) and other festivals that had trouble getting their festivals out this year," he says. "It seemed like a perfect opportunity for us to work together."

Jazz Winnipeg was wrapping up its outdoor summer concert series at the Dalnavert Museum when Requena Ramos pitched the organization’s newly minted artistic producer, Michael Wolch, on the concept. Getting involved was a no-brainer.

"We thought it was just a perfect time to move indoors," Wolch says. "We appreciate him reaching out to us and connecting because it’s important (that) we as a community, not just organizations but musicians and everybody in all the different cultural industries, need to support each other through this tough time."

Every Friday, the WECC’s concert hall will be transformed into a kind of dinner theatre, with tables and chairs holding court on what would normally be the dance floor. Diners will be seated with their companions and tables will be arranged in a physically distant manner.

Dinner from Feast — which is located across the street from the venue on Ellice Avenue — will be served at 6 p.m. with full table service.

"Their meals arrive to their table and they have a delicious dinner just before the show starts," Requena Ramos says. "Dinner and a show is like a perfectly wrapped evening where you can come in and you can get everything you need in one place safely."

The partners are also bringing in guest chefs to create menus inspired by the music.

"We’re trying to have fun with it as well and trying to theme the meals to the music," Wolch says, pointing to chef Rob Thomas, who will be creating a soul food menu to pair with the Stevie Wonder tribute on Oct. 23, featuring Breeze (a.k.a. Ian Morris-Grant) and the Nu-Frequency Band.

The coronavirus pandemic has been equally difficult for the local music and restaurant industries — with some bands feeling the fallout of both. Winnipeg Latin outfit the Papa Mambo Trio lost its long-running residency when Hermanos Restaurant and Wine Bar closed in May.

"It’s one of the groups that got hit really hard," Requena Ramos says. "One of our missions was to provide work for musicians like that."

The Cookin’ lineup is also an opportunity for Jazz Winnipeg to extend its summer series and shine a spotlight on more musicians.

"We could only do so much," Wolch says. "So this is an opportunity for us to reach out to bands that we wanted to connect with, and get them on stage and get them working again."

The series kicks off on Friday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. with a performance by Leaf Rapids. Tickets and a full event listing at wecc.eventbrite.ca.

eva.wasney@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @evawasney

Eva Wasney

Eva Wasney
Arts Reporter

Eva Wasney is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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