The crowded festival tent and packed concerts are gone. In April, the pandemic forced Halifax Jazz Festival organizers to cancel their live summer events. But they wanted to find another way to support the local music community.

“That’s always a priority for the festival to support the community, get people out, and put on shows,” says Andrew Jackson, JazzFest’s senior program manager. “We were trying to find different ways, and we came up with a whole bunch of different concept ideas of how to do some online programming.”

With a combination of online workshops and performances, the lineup is as diverse as ever. Throughout July, JazzFest has shared “Canadian Jazz Interviews” on Tuesday mornings in July via Facebook Live and YouTube. Jackson and Charles Hsuen talk with nationally recognized jazz artists, including Mike Murley, Allison Au, and Lina Allemano.

On Thursdays, the highly popular Livestream Jazz Labs run, and many different topics covered include an African Drumming session by Henry Bishop. This week, Amy Brandon conducts a guitar effects workshop.

Jah’Mila

Highlighting this year’s festival is an extravaganza of online concerts on Aug. 6–8. Each artist recorded at the beautiful Sonic Temple studio in downtown Halifax. Performances include the Eastern European sounds of Electro Jacques Therapy with Krasnogorsk, the smooth semi-baritone voice of Corey Adams, a unique spoken-word performance featuring Andre Fenton with Samantha Wilson and the Easley, Arsenault & Stevenson trio. The final night the spotlight is on Jamaican reggae artist Jah’Mila and renowned local jazz drummer Jerry Granelli.

Jackson grew up in Halifax and had his first experience with the Jazz Festival as a 14-year-old performer and began working as a programmer with the event in 2017. He explains why the 2020 theme “Virtual and Vibrant” is meaningful to him.

“It’s always been important to me to provide a diverse festival and make sure we include voices from as many walks of life as we can,” he says. “With so much going on in the world between social movements and the pandemic, there’s a need for vibrancy. We’re trying to provide some light and positivity that also helps support people in these times as well. I think the offerings of unique concerts and workshops are a way to provide some light in some dark times.”

Audiences may miss the live shows but Jackson believes the festival can make a different, and special, contribution in their lives this year. “We hope to provide that creative content, support artists, and provide some entertainment; some thought-provoking sounds,” he says. “Hopefully, we can get back to doing live music sometime in the future.”

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