Live concerts return to Neepawa

·4 min read

The sound of music will once again be filling the hills of Neepawa with the return of the Kaleidoscope Concert series.

It is a fantastic feeling knowing live concerts are once again returning to the stage after more than a year of silence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Kaleidoscope volunteer Ron Nordstrom. Kaleidoscope members have been carefully crafting a season of entertainment for audiences centred on supporting Manitoba musicians and providing them with a platform at the Roxy Theatre.

“There is a wide range of options for Manitoba musicians. If you’re looking for hip-hop artists or country artists, or whatever, there are so many musicians in Manitoba to pick from,” Nordstrom said. “We’re trying to get local talent.”

He hopes the premier concert, Leaf Rapids, will serve as a chance to test the water and show that it is safe to return to live music in the community.

A small benefit concert with about 100 people was held for the Roxy Theatre prior to the Leaf Rapids performance, he said, and volunteers were able to learn from the experience. Nordstrom added the Roxy Theatre is a non-profit in the community and, like many others, have had very little income during the global health crisis.

Leaf Rapids marked the first Kaleidoscope concert since the start of the pandemic, hitting the stage at the theatre on Nov. 8.

“It’s the first steps to get people back,” Nordstrom said.

Planning for the 2021-22 Kaleidoscope concert series has been challenging due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19, he said.

Proof of full vaccination will be required along with photo ID. Masks must also be worn for the entirety of the concert and multiple hand sanitization stations will be available.

Ticket sales for the new season have been soft, Nordstrom said, but he is hoping to see the excitement grow for each concert.

“I think [audiences] have to be built up. The ticket sales have not been up to where it normally is at this point,” Nordstrom said. He added the 2021-22 season is also in a unique situation because Kaleidoscope will not be offering season tickets due to the uncertainty created by COVID-19 public health regulations.

Organizers opted to sell tickets to individual concerts in case they encountered restrictions requiring events to be cancelled.

Nordstrom said he has sensed some hesitancy from potential audiences — be it those concerned with gathering in a large crowd, or others who are resistant to wearing a mask for a prolonged amount of time.

“Personally I’ve gone to a number of concerts already and had to wear my mask for the entirety of the concert. It’s slightly uncomfortable but it’s no worse than people working in retail who have to wear their mask for an eight-hour shift,” Nordstrom said. “It’s a slight inconvenience, it’s not a big deal.”

For now, Kaleidoscope volunteers are grateful they are able to once again host live music and have the band in town for the first post-pandemic concert, after the sorrow of seeing the 2020 season cancelled.

In 2020 the entire concert series running from October to March was cancelled owing to the pandemic.

It was a disappointing time, Nordstrom said, because he was looking forward to sharing the music of Manitoba-based Leaf Rapids and others with Westman area residents. A number of performers participating in 2021-22 were slated to appear last year, while others have been newly added to the roster.

It has been complicated logistically planning for the new season, he said, and part of adapting to the reality of COVID had been limiting the series to Manitoba-based artists.

Nordstrom added Kaleidoscope does not expect to break even this year but is viewing it as an opportunity to build their audiences back up again.

“They have to have the confidence to come out, and I think for a little while musicians and venues will have to work at building up the confidence of concert-goers again to get them to get out and see live events,” Nordstrom said “When you come out of those things you feel good.”

While he appreciates being able to watch events online, it does not offer the same energy and excitement as gathering with others to enjoy a special performance. Nordstrom said it can benefit mental health by being part of a connected community during a concert, especially for those who have experienced extreme isolation during COVID-19.

“You energize each other,” Nordstrom said.

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Manitoba Country Music Awards fan-favourite Kendra Kay will be the next performance in the series, appearing at the Roxy Theatre on Dec. 7.


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Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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