Concerts have returned to New Westminster’s Massey Theatre, where B.C.’s COVID-19 rules mean just 50 people can enjoy a performance in the 1,260-seat theatre.
A series-kickoff show was performed Friday (Oct. 16) by Vancouver-based band The Boom Booms, with seats going for close to $60 a ticket. The band was booked for four performances over two nights.
With spectators well spread out in the theatre, in different rows, there was more than enough physical distancing to make the concert feel as safe as advertised, although cavernous doesn’t begin to describe the experience in a near-empty theatre.
“I think it was kind of surreal – I’m not sure if you felt that way or not,” Jessica Schneider, executive director of Massey Theatre, said on Monday (Oct. 19).
“I went Saturday and it’s just unusual, but I think it’s really important, all in all,” she added. “It’s just all so strange with the structure and feel. Given that the venue is really safe, we just have to maintain that option and we also have to give artists a chance to perform. They really, really need that. I think the casualties we might see amongst artists, people just not being able to figure out how to go back to it, I just feel like we keep needing to wave a flag for them, you know.”
Next musician in the series is Chantal Kreviazuk, who will perform nightly from Oct. 28 to 31, followed by solo concerts by Chilliwack’s Bill Henderson from Nov. 26 to 29. Visit masseytheatre.com for details, or call 604-521-5050.
— Tom Zillich (@TomZillich) October 17, 2020
For the groovy soul-funk of The Boom Booms, close to three dozen ticketholders were in the Massey for the concert at 7 p.m. Friday.
“It’s a very complicated and diverse structure with this,” Schneider reported. “We are an organization that has some programming funding to support artists and audiences, and also a subsidized venue and then also the wage subsidy to allow us to have our staff there, so when you combine those three things we don’t have to make a profit, otherwise none of this would have happened.”
The next step is to liquor-license the concerts, she added.
“And we’ll see how it goes too, and we’re working through that,” Schneider said. “We’ll add more staff to manage that, but it’s all nothing like we’ve had in place. The whole experience had to be tweaked.”
She said a lot of Vancouver-area concert venues are closed and not ready to reopen, so the Massey experience is a bit of a trial for local live music at the moment.
“It’s quite complicated to reopen like we have,” Schneider revealed. “It’s fine but no, it’s not sustainable. We need some shows to make a profit, to balance that off.
“It’s a calculated venture, with a purpose,” she added. “I’m hoping that we can do enough activity where people prepare for when it’s possible again to have more arts, more concerts, it’s going to be that much easier for everyone to get started as well. You know as much as I don’t really want these (concerts) to be limited to 50 (people), it’s actually really good practice for our staff.”
Theatre management will conduct a review of the concert series over the next couple of weeks, to see where things go next.
“We’re not going to stop, but we’re not racing into it either,” Schneider said. “We want to get more feedback from people as well, and what we got over the weekend was all positive, everybody saying thank goodness there’s some live music to hear. I think it was really great from that perspective. So what’s the next step to try. And if in March that means a bigger number, then these concerts will be really valuable to go to the next step – maybe at that time we can have rentals again and maybe be up to 200 capacity or something.”
Tickets for Henderson’s concert at the Massey are $55 plus service charges, and a ticket to see Kreviazuk is priced at $57, plus charges.
Kreviazuk released her eighth studio album, Get To You, over the summer.
She says it was an easy choice to proceed with the release of an album during a global pandemic.
“The wonderful thing about music is that it is always welcomed and needed,” Kreviazuk said in a news release announcing her Massey concert. “In times of crisis, it offers solace and comfort. Without question, now is the time to release music.”
Ticketholdes are encouraged to wear masks for shows in the Massey series.
Also, a ticket purchase comes with this warning: “That by attending the performance you, and the members of your party, hereby assume the risk of possible exposure to and illness from infectious or communicable viruses and diseases, including but not limited to COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, Ebola, and Influenza (collectively, ‘Transmittable Diseases’), incurred or sustained in connection with their attendance at the Theatre. You knowingly and freely assume all such risks, both known and unknown, for yourself and any guests even if arising from the negligence of the City or others. Further, you agree to comply with all applicable municipal, Provincial, and/or Federal regulations, guidelines, orders, directives or rules, as may relate to minimizing the risk of transmission of any Transmittable Diseases, and agree to inform and make this information available to any parties coming to the Facility.”
Meantime, Vancouver Chamber Music Society has announced a performance by Koerner Piano Trio at Anvil Centre in New Westminster on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 2 and 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 via vancouverchambermusic.com.
“Vancouver Academy of Music’s first chamber ensemble in residency makes their VCMS debut with gripping performances of Mozart, Smetana, and Turina,” says an event advisory. “Written amidst a series of tragedies, Smetana’s trio will ease the fears and uncertainties in our community with the unexpected joy and optimism in its conclusion. Expect a concert program that is filled with passion, melody, and virtuosity to keep the listener firmly on the edge of their seat.”