ECMAs name honorary winners, prepare for another virtual show

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Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Keith Mullins is one of the ECMA's honorary award recipients for 2021. He received the Musician's Achievement Award. (CBC - image credit)
Nova Scotia singer-songwriter Keith Mullins is one of the ECMA's honorary award recipients for 2021. He received the Musician's Achievement Award. (CBC - image credit)

The East Coast Music Awards had to cancel their live show for a second year in a row because of the pandemic, but awards will still be handed out and honorary award recipients were named this week.

Among the recipients were Cape Breton native Keith Mullins, who took home the Musician's Achievement Award, and Wendy Bergfeldt, host of CBC Radio's Mainstreet Cape Breton.

Bergfeldt received the Stompin' Tom award, which is given each year to five individuals or groups from across the East Coast.

The other winners were Tara MacLean (P.E.I.), Buddy Wasisname and the Other Fellers (N.L.), Dave Gunning (N.S.) and Peter Rowan (N.B.).

This is the 25th year the honorary award has been handed out. It was created at the request of music legend Stompin' Tom Connors to honour all those who have made a long-term contribution to the East Coast music industry.

Bergfeldt said she is deeply honoured to receive one of the awards.

"I feel so privileged to work with the musical community on Cape Breton Island and throughout the region," she said. "Every day, without exception, I pause in gratitude for the opportunity to share this rich culture."

Barn now a recording studio

Mullins told CBC he is grateful to his peers in the music industry for the recognition.

He adapted when the pandemic arrived last year by building a barn that now serves as a recording studio. He's using the space to help budding musicians develop their talent.

He said when COVID-19 lockdowns were ordered and music gigs dried up, he knew he needed to switch gears.

"Sink or swim, man, that's what everybody's got to do. Everybody's got to figure it out, how to make it work. And I feel so excited. I've got all these records I've made for all these artists. All this creative energy is just — there's probably 50 of 60 songs that are all coming out."

Sydney businesses disappointed by cancellation

The ECMAs had been planning an in-person festival, conference and awards show to take play in Sydney, N.S., in May, but those plans were axed with the arrival of the third wave of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.

The plans were carefully crafted to keep in line with public health guidelines, and the cancellation is a let-down for many.

"We've changed our plans, oh my goodness, at least a dozen times," said Paul MacDonald, manager of Centre 200 where the awards show was supposed to be held.

"A lot of these people who are in the hotel business and the restaurant business and the service business that really suffered during this pandemic...this was an opportunity to at least bring some people into the area to at least give them a boost and get things going again."

The ECMAs are going to present the rest of its awards virtually. Details of the online event have yet to be released.

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