20 July 2020

Virtual festival strikes a chord for Canberra musicians

| Michael Weaver
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Canberra singer/songwriter Vendulka with guitar.

Canberra singer/songwriter Vendulka Wichta will headline the COVIDEO Gigfest. Photo: Supplied.

Canberra has another avenue to watch local musicians perform with the launch of a virtual video festival designed to support ACT musicians who have lost their livelihoods since the onset of COVID-19.

Following in the footsteps of Live In Ya Lounge and the Where You Are Festival, the COVIDEO Virtual Gigfest has been launched with local musicians being paid to perform.

Headlined by Canberra artist and former Voice contestant Vendulka, from yesterday, music fans can log on to the Canberra 2020 COVIDEO Virtual Gigfest via the Recruitment Hive website and Facebook page and watch videos of their favourite artists. The goal is to raise the profile of Canberra artists, attend their performances and help return their industry to normal as fast as possible.

The virtual concert will remain online for as long as restrictions on the number of people allowed in live music venues are in place.

The talent includes Canberra’s The Australian Voice Collective, which ensured its young voices aged between 12 and 25 were socially distanced.

Also on the bill is the Progetti Chamber Choir and scores of local musicians who have had their livelihoods put on hold by COVID-19.

The virtual festival is the brainchild of Canberra business owner and aspiring musician Ben Ashman who wanted to show his support for local artists and help raise their profile.

Ben, who owns IT recruitment company Recruitment Hive, put out the call for entries on social media and paid all 15 artists for their work.

“It’s been more than 100 days since restrictions were imposed on entertainment venues, meaning hundreds of musicians have been without their livelihoods, and their passion to perform for live audiences.

“One thing the crisis has reminded us of is how much we rely on the arts for our mood and quality of life,” Ben said.

“But many artists have seen their income drop to zero overnight. We wanted to support Canberra’s musicians in these tough times, and raise the profiles of local artists as much as we can.”

The headline act is 21-year-old singer/songwriter Vendulka, who said she relied solely on performance income and was booked out more than three months in advance for shows around Australia, but “within the first 24 hours of the first COVID announcement, more than six months of income disappeared overnight”.

“I’d spent the past 12 months working on an EP to release this year and that whole plan went out the window. The band members have since been perfecting our live show and we’re looking forward to playing for live audiences both nationally and internationally, as soon as restrictions allow.”

Violinist Michael Liu has used the time to rethink where he finds his audience.

“COVID-19 sent a serious shockwave through the music and events industry,” Michael said.

“Without gigs, many live musicians are without work and avenues to express their practice. Online and virtual opportunities have been one of the ways I’ve had to explore and reconceptualise where to find an audience, but it’s really tough to monetise.”

Music director of the Progetti Chamber Choir Charis Messalina de Valence said although the choir has just started rehearsing, performances are still not possible.

“Music is our lifeblood – not being able to sing together and share our performances has been an experience we thought we’d never have. It is unclear how live music will re-emerge from COVID, but we will find a way.”

Ben Ashman is urging Canberrans to get behind these artists via their own social media channels to help spread the word that while the artists can’t perform live, they are finding ways to make a living from performing online.

“We’ll make as much noise and generate as much buzz and viewing traffic as we can. This is our way of helping the Canberra region’s musicians and performers do what they do best,” Ben said.

The full line-up of featured talent includes:

  • Aya Yves
  • Vendulka
  • busker from Weston Creek, Eden Plenty
  • international award-winning classical guitarist from Latham, Campbell Diamond
  • Queanbeyan country music singer/songwriter, Dana Hassall
  • acoustic folk singer/songwriter, Dean Abbott
  • the Australian Voice Collective
  • professional acoustic musician from Queanbeyan, Renae Stone
  • the Progetti Chamber Choir
  • acoustic trio Chillin, featuring Karen James from Giralang
  • classical violinist from Red Hill, Arianne Tan
  • singer/songwriter for three bands The Mating Season, The Henchmen and Weekend of Noise, Tom Woodward
  • Tanner Clark, of Belconnen, also known as Kloudii, and
  • violinist and DJ Michael Liu.

Find out more at COVIDEO.

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