Hermann's Jazz Club livestreaming concerts to virus-isolated fans

Hermann’s Jazz Club is hoping a shift to livestreaming concerts will provide some income for performers who are out of work as a result of social-distancing measures.

“It’s our way of trying to get money to the musicians,” said Ashley Wey, booking manager for the View Street club. “It’s also a way to bring our Hernann’s living room to the audience that misses coming here.”

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The club’s first attempt at livestreaming — which includes an on-screen link through which viewers can donate — took place Monday afternoon on Facebook with a lively performance by singer Maria Manna, who was joined on the Hermann’s stage by Wey on piano and Louis Rudner on bass for the hour-long set. More than 1,300 viewers from as far away as Switzerland, Germany and France tuned in for the concert, which is nearly 10 times the amount of people the 140-capacity club can accommdate on any given night.

Given the success of the club’s trial run, the plan is to offer more shows from the Hermann’s stage in the coming days, Wey said. “There is no limited capacity, so it’s a chance for us to expand out audience, too.”

Manna lost eight shows as result of the fallout from the COVID-19 virus, so the livestream served several purposes. Her primary purpose was to perform for her extended family of more than 100 people back home in Italy, where she was born, many of whom have been locked down in isolation for weeks. Her parents, who are in an assisted-living facility in Edmonton, tuned in for her concert Monday, as did scores of extended family from the highly infected Abruzzo and Lombardi areas of Italy.

“When we started to see that this was going bad, we have been talking every day,” Manna said.

She debuted her newly written version of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, with words sung in Italian. She also sang Oh mia bela Madunina, the unofficial anthem of Milan, in the Milanese dialect of Lombard, followed by a range of other uplifting favourites.

“I wanted to touch the souls of people who were tuning in,” she said. “We are inflicted with this virus, which is global. But what actually gone viral is the love for each other. We grew stronger because we can’t touch, because we can’t see each other. The love has gone viral.”

The majority of concerts originally booked into Hermann’s in the coming weeks have either been re-scheduled or cancelled entirely, though some of the artists who were on the live-concert calendar have committed to online performances. Pablo Cardenas is the next livestreaming option this Friday, followed by Kelby MacNayr on April 8, Cardenas again (April 17) and David Vest (April 18). Manna will be back to perform on April 19.

With no re-opening date in sight, livestreaming will be the new model for Hermann’s going forward, Wey said. “I think we’re going to be livestreaming for a while.”

To view upcoming concerts at Hermann’s Jazz Club, visit facebook.com/hermannsjazz. To contribute, visit artsonview.ca/donations.

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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