Local music industry beats pandemic blues with third series of Encore Ottawa virtual concerts
Ottawa musicians from a variety of genres perform in the third edition of a virtual concert series organized by the city’s leading music industry advocate to ease the impact of the pandemic on local artists.
The Ottawa Music Industry Coalition, a non-profit organization serving professional musicians in the capital, is in the midst of its third season of Encore Ottawa, a lifeline for many local artists. during the COVID-19 crisis.
Organized as the Omicron variant airing across Canada in the first four months of 2022, Encore Ottawa 3 features over 30 pre-recorded 25-minute sets from Ottawa musical acts in 14 concerts. Performers range from emerging artists to well-established award winners in concerts that showcase a range of musical genres.
The first concert took place on March 24 and featured retro soul band The Commotions, jazzy R&B singer Dominique Gorley and others in performances taped at Meridian Theaters at Centrepointe in Nepean and the Shenkman Arts Center in Orleans.
The weekly shows, which have also aired on Rogers TV, run until May 12, when The Angelina Hunter Trio are due to perform.
“It definitely helped me establish myself in the city. It’s great to get that experience and recognition and you’ll always have the taped TV show that you can send in when you apply for other venues, grants, or festivals.
— Ash Ravens, Ottawa musician
“We wanted to have a show every weekend, sell tickets and have an audience – and that was last December. And then we suddenly went back into confinement,” said Karim Rostom, program coordinator at OMIC and a local musician who performs under the stage name Kasien.
After quickly pivoting their method of delivery, the paid 25-minute performances were taped by all participating musicians, with funding and other support from OMIC, Rogers TV and the two east and west end venues. from the city.
“There was a two-week window where we said OK, let’s do it, and we just went through all the records. … It was great to do something,” Rostom said.
Two concerts were broadcast on Rogers TV every Thursday night. The upcoming show, which airs on Rogers at 10 p.m. May 5, will feature electropop artist ISØBEL and alt-pop singer-songwriter Vi.
“I’m so honored to be a part of this OMIC showcase,” Juno Award-winning singer and songwriter Kellylee Evans, who performed on March 31, said in a March press release announcing the last series.
“I’ve heard so much about the work they’ve done to support local artists since their inception, especially during the pandemic,” Evans said. “Their recognition means a lot to me.”
The latest Encore Ottawa series follows two already successful seasons of pre-recorded online concerts featuring local artists.
“The past two seasons were filmed exclusively at the Shenkman Arts Center, but this year we switched between the Shenkman Arts Center and Meridian with the goal of doing in-person performances — and then, of course, doing them under form of recorded performance,” said Jahn Fawcett, who works at the Shenkman Center for the Arts.
For the first two seasons, Fawcett explained that they were just “pooling existing resources”. But for this third season, he said Shenkman and the other concert series partners were able to put together a successful grant application.
They obtained funding for the performances through a special program of the federal Department of Canadian Heritage.
Allan Sansom, also involved in the project, coordinated events at Meridian Theaters in Centrepointe for over a decade.
“We had a watch party for the premiere (March 24),” Sansom said. “A lot of artists were there, and I was there, and it was amazing to see them put down roots and celebrate each other’s virtuosity and brilliance in songwriting.”
Ottawa’s music scene is a close-knit community. The past two years have taken a toll on the community as the pandemic has reduced concert opportunities.
“It was very difficult to record new material, coordinating with other musicians,” Rostom said. “Also, just being stuck working from home isn’t very conducive to creativity.”
Ash Ravens is a local musician and professional guitarist new to the capital. He produces music in English and Bengali and also performs instrumentals. He places his music under the umbrella of rock with an emphasis on the human experience
Ravens has traveled extensively to pursue her musical career. The Bangladeshi-born artist lived in Los Angeles and Australia before moving to Ottawa last year.
He talked about how difficult it was for him to navigate a new city as a musician during the pandemic. He said he mainly networked with his new music community through social media, where he was able to bond and make friends.
Ravens highlighted how positive the experience was when he joined OMIC, which operates as a membership organization.
“It was very, very welcoming and they’re very supportive of newcomers,” he said.
OMIC’s mandate is to promote local industry — including the City of Ottawa’s long-standing quest to make Canada’s capital the “city of music” — and to provide opportunities for artists to present their work.
“It’s been very difficult to record new material, coordinating with other musicians. Also, just being stuck working from home isn’t very conducive to creativity.
— Karim Rostom, Program Coordinator, Ottawa Music Industry Coalition
“Members expect us to provide them with news opportunities and this was the best way for us to provide artists with an opportunity to perform during the pandemic,” Rostom said.
Since moving to Ottawa, Ravens said he has performed at several concerts in the city and is looking forward to releasing a new album soon.
“It definitely helped me establish myself in the city,” he said. “It’s great to get that experience and recognition and you’ll always have the taped TV show that you can send in when you apply for other venues, grants, or festivals.”
Sansom said Encore Ottawa 3 has helped local artists “with exposure. It’s another opportunity for them to be seen and for the public to reconnect with them. Promotion is another. By appearing at venues like the Shenkman Art Center and the Meridian Theater in Centrepointe, I hope it adds credibility to artists when they perform elsewhere.
As the mandates rise, Ottawa artists like Ash Ravens are once again seeing new live performance opportunities arise.
For the Shenkman Arts Centre, Meridian Theater at Centrepointe and OMIC, spring brings new opportunities, including hosting in-person events. They urge local music fans to try to keep up to date with their websites as new event information is released regularly.