What: Joy of Life Festival with Daniel Lapp, featuring Shari Ulrich, Lennie Gallant, Tania Elizabeth, the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra, Folkestra, and Joy of Life Choir
When: Sunday, 4 p.m.
Nearly 150 performers will be on a virtual stage Sunday as Daniel Lapp’s Joy of Life festival heads to YouTube for the first time in its seven-year history.
Despite the dramatic change in scenery, just as many performers are participating as in previous editions, said Lapp, who has been at work on the project since the summer, rehearsing remotely with his students in the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra, Folkestra and Joy of Life Choir so the celebration of the Canadian songbook will strike its usual chord with audiences.
“It’s going to be a show, man,” Lapp said. “But it hasn’t been any easier. It has been just as much work as all the others.”
The event, produced in conjunction with the Victoria Conservatory of Music, for which Lapp serves as artistic director in the School of Contemporary Music, will cover a lot of bases over its two-and-a-half hours.
Victoria fiddler Tania Elizabeth (now based in Nashville) and singer-songwriters Lennie Gallant (based in Prince Edward Island) and Shari Ulrich (Vancouver) will appear as special guests on the broadcast.
Along with performances from Folkestra, the Joy of Life Choir, and the B.C. Fiddle Orchestra, who will be singing everything from Anne Murray to folk traditionals and standards, Lapp is promising surprises.
Local chef and restaurateur Peter Zambri will be featured in a cooking segment about Thanksgiving dinner, which Lapp believes will have the audience in fits. “I was going to have him on for maybe five minutes. But it’s going to end up being like 20 minutes. He’s just great.”
Joy of Life certainly has a different look and feel in 2020, but Lapp loved the idea of what could be done in the spaces between the performances, which were pre-recorded and staged remotely.
He didn’t fuss over the minutiae, as he normally would; instead, he brought all his whims under one roof.
Time constraints and production budgets weren’t an issue, either, as Lapp could book performers from across the country without the cost of air travel. “I never could have had Lennie Gallant at one of our concerts. He just lives too far away,” he said. “And we’ve never had three special guests before, because we can’t afford to pay for travel and hotels for three different guests. We’re paying them a fee to be part of the show, with no extra expenses.”
COVID-19 protocols meant Joy of Life had to be moved from its usual spot in May to its new date in October. The extra time gave him much-needed room for rehearsals. He rehearsed remotely through summer with his students. “I didn’t have a summer in that sense. I didn’t go away [to tour], because all the gigs were cancelled.”
The afternoon of Thanksgiving Sunday was chosen for the event “so that we could have some Maritimers join in the concert after their Thanksgiving dinner is over,” said Lapp, who is hoping that the YouTube broadcast, which is free and accessible to anyone worldwide, will provide a global showcase for his Victoria students
Lapp also wants viewers at home to participate and sing along — lyrics for each song will be scrolled on screen — and even donate (the Victoria Conservatory of Music is a registered charity). Given that the concert is being broadcast for free, the school is accepting donations through the Victoria Conservatory of Music website during and after the concert.
The plan at one point, during the earlier, more uncertain stages of the pandemic, was for Joy of Life to be a two-day livestreamed event. Groups were going to perform live in separate locations, with Lapp conducting remotely, the end result of which would be combined into a seamless livestream.
Lapp said he might tackle that for his other annual event, Home For Christmas, but “we’re not ready to take that risk now.”
It’s for the better, he admitted. Staging an online celebration means the music program needs to be assembled in a certain way. Rehearsals with his students over the summer reflected that change in direction.
“We couldn’t all sing together, of course. I was writing all these arrangements and had all these harmonies in my head, but I couldn’t actually rehearse them with my students. My choir got used to me teaching something one way and using it as a draft, and coming back the following week and saying: ‘Forget what we did last week, we’re going to do this now.’ I’m flying by the seat of my pants most of the time, and they are my guinea pigs.”