With the CKCU-FM station in Ottawa closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris White, the host of Canadian Spaces, the longest-running folk music radio show in Canada, forged ahead. He broadcast Canadian Spaces live from his living room in the Glebe last week, using Facebook Live. Although there were some technical hitches with the audio and visuals, including sometimes amusing upside-down images, the spirit of Canadian Spaces was strong throughout. All of the elements of the show were there – live interviews and performances, the lowdown on what is happening with local musicians and, of course, lots of great music.
“Thirty minutes before going on air at 10am, I realized that technical issues would not allow me to run Facebook Live from my laptop as I had planned. I made a last-minute decision to run [it] from my phone instead. As a result, the show was a comedy of errors on the technical front – much like early days of television! However, the fascinating interviews, the good music and the encouraging comments from the audience made the effort – and embarrassment – totally worthwhile!” White said.
White was lucky to have his wife, Mary Gick, in the background offering technical and moral support. “She helped to select and cue up the music that we played from CDs and vinyl on our home stereo. Mary also set up the calls with the guests I interviewed during the show. They called into her phone, and I pointed my phone at her screen so that the audience could see them.”
This unique and historic episode of Canadian Spaces truly reflected Canada in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Musician Howie Hooper (seen on a handheld cellphone) belted out a new blues composition, COVID-19 Blues. Recorded tracks included the poignant tune Surrender by Jody Benjamin and just for fun, Mimi on the Beach by Jane Siberry, as well as music from artists such as Stephen Fearing and Lynne Hanson.
Interviews were also carried out via cell phone. Fiddler Michael Ball recounted how he had cut short his trip to Louisiana due to the pandemic and returned home to self-quarantine in his home, staying in a separate room from his life partner, musician Jody Benjamin. When Catriona Sturton was interviewed, she talked of how she was prevented from going to the States to participate in a panel of harmonica experts, but remained upbeat and positive. Catriona played a few riffs on the harmonica and reminded everyone of the benefits of taking a deep breath as a way of battling stress and helping strengthen our immune systems.
The regular listeners (called Space Cadets) were introduced to the folk website Roots Music Canada through an interview with Managing Editor Heather Kitching. Roots Music Canada is described as your home on the web for Canadian roots music, founded on November 17, 2009, Gordon Lightfoot’s 71st birthday. Heather discussed the history of the website and how we can help musicians during this difficult time when performance venues are closed.
Online, the Space Cadets sent messages of support and approval. The most distant of these well-wishers may have been musician Tony Turner out in Kelowna, British Columbia, who summed up the feelings of many Space Cadets by writing “I love this!”
“I felt it was important to keep broadcasting because of the strong sense of community that has developed around the show over the years for numerous listeners and guests. I also felt it would be good to have a forum for people to talk about the implications of the pandemic for performers and audiences who can’t get together in person at this time,” said White.
Thanks to Chris White and Mary Gick for the lovely show, and I look forward to next week’s episode of Canadian Spaces.
Canadian Spaces is video-streamed live on Saturday mornings from 10am to noon Eastern at https://www.facebook.com/canadianspaces.