The Haliburton County Folk Society’s plans to bring music to people at home April 10 were dashed by a combination of the provincial lockdown and poor local internet.

The society announced it was cancelling a virtual, open-stage concert April 8 due to the provincial COVID-19 health restrictions. The province enacted a shutdown April 3, which closed facilities including live-streaming concert venues, before adding a stay-at-home order with more restrictions April 8.

Folk society treasurer Don Gage said the show may have been possible under the restrictions given performers all operate from home. But the society cancelled because hosts could not get strong enough internet connections to broadcast without using closed public facilities such as libraries or the Rails End Gallery.

“Disappointed, frustrated, confused,” Gage said, adding it has been difficult to figure out the regulations. “If everybody here had good internet, we could do it.”

However, Gage said the society has worked out alternative arrangements to put on another show April 24 with the same slate of performers – all while staying within the rules.

The folk society has put on several virtual shows throughout the pandemic using live streaming. Its latest series have been virtual open stage shows, featuring local artists performing from home with pre-recorded songs.

Gage said they have also been adding bigger-name headliners, with folk artist Rick Fines scheduled to join the stream from home. Gage said the pre-recorded performances were a workaround to accommodate poor internet speeds throughout the County. Shows did still feature live hosts and interviews, with professionals like Fines in better-connected areas able to perform live.

“Our mandate is to support local artists. Our mandate is to provide good music,” Gage said. “Especially in these days of lockdowns and restrictions, being able to do some community-minded things and being able to continue to represent local artists in unique ways is important.”

The province closing isolated live streamed shows in concert venues has earned some ire in the music world.

The Canadian Live Music Association wrote a letter April 8 asking the government to revise restrictions to allow companies to continue rehearsing, taping, and live streaming.

“In live streaming, we convene small groups of highly-trained professionals in well-managed spaces to engage in closely-controlled work,” the letter said. “We are well-equipped to implement and work within world-class safety protocols. As a sector, our number one priority is the safety of our artists, workers and patrons.”

Gage said the folk society was able to reschedule by avoiding any “concert venues” and finding alternate sites with good internet. Hosts and performers alike will be broadcasting from different places.

“We don’t want to bend the rules if we don’t have to,” Gage said. “We want to stay within them the best we can.”

Gage said the society wants to continue with open stage events that spotlight local artists, who may not have the same live streaming opportunities that professionals do.

“Open stages have that sense of community, of everybody getting together in a room,” Gage said. “We’re trying to recreate some of that atmosphere.”

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