Music News Digest, July 23, 2020

Nick Nurse (pictured) boosts a school’s music program, Unison Benevolent Fund’s #WithoutMusic project grabs attention, and David Byrne’s American Utopia will open TIFF.  Also making news are MusiCounts, Alex Henry Foster, the Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival, Shambhala Music Festival, Starlight Social Club, N'Awlins Jazz Bar, LyricFind, Anyway Gang, Array Space, and farewell Annie Ross.

Music News Digest, July 23, 2020

By Kerry Doole

Unison Benevolent Fund – an assistance program that provides discreet relief to music industry professionals in times of crisis –has launched #WithoutMusic, a collaborative social media campaign The initiative encourages participants to detail the positive and lasting impact of music in their lives and the world, and why supporting organizations like Unison are vital to this.

Participants can voice their thoughts and experiences by sharing the graphic, photos, videos and stories on social media using the #WithoutMusic hashtag and tagging @UnisonFund. Stars who have already participated. Among these are The Tenors, Bif Naked, Jay Douglas, and Andrew Hyatt. Donations collected from the #WithoutMusic campaign will be included as part of the Spotify Covid-19 Music Relief project. Spotify will match donations made to Unison, dollar for dollar to a collective total of US$10M. Find out more here


– Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse recently surprised a Mississauga music teacher with a $25K donation to her school to buy new instruments for her students. “This is giving me so much street cred with my kids," Julia Jung, a teacher at St. Aloysius Gonzaga Secondary School, told CBC. It all started when Jung arranged for her students to put together a cover of Years in the Making, a song by Hamilton rock band Arkells. Hearing of the project, Arkells frontman Max Kerman informed his pal Nurse and arranged a video call with Nurse and Jung in which Nurse shared the news of the donation on behalf of the Nick Nurse Foundation and Entertainment One Music

– American Utopia, a filmed-version of David Byrne’s hit Broadway show, will be the opening night presentation of The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Famed director Spike Lee shot the production during its Hudson Theatre run and the concert film will air on HBO this fall. It screens in Toronto on Sept. 10, the same day it premieres on the cable channel. Covid-19 means that this 45th edition of TIFF will be a mix of physical and virtual events.


– MusiCounts' Vol III of its Virtual Dance Party, presented by SiriusXM, takes place tonight, July 23 at 8 pm EST. Held on MusiCounts Facebook Live, it is headlined by 2020 Juno Award winner for Canadian Country Album of the Year, Meghan Patrick, and includes emerging Canadian country artist Sacha, and 2019 MusiCounts Scholarship recipient, Cassidy Taylor.

– Best known as the leader of the Montreal rock band Your Favorite Enemies, Alex Henry Foster has also been very successful in Quebec as a solo artist. Along with his new group The Long Shadows, he has released a teaser video prior to a Direct-To-Vinyl session on July 26 that enables you to see how the band is crafting its limited collector vinyl records in-house with the lathe cut technique. With touring postponed, Foster hosted live broadcasts from his studio-church by partnering with the local Palmarès ADISQ, UK's Prog Magazine and Germany’s Orange Blossom Special Festival, for which the band decided to turn its performance on a Direct-To-Vinyl and sold out their 100 copies within 15 minutes. Foster also offered over 1,000 vinyl albums to his favourite local store helping their re-opening at the end of May, as well as supporting Amnesty International by releasing a special t-shirt, Silence Is Murder. The direct-to-vinyl live-stream airs via the BrooklynVegan Facebook on July 26 at 10 am EST.


– The Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival is featuring chamber music and international artists in its virtual Festival from Sept. 1– 5. The fest features free concerts with the Attacca, New Orford, PUBLIQuartet, and Viano string quartets, pianists Jan Lisiecki and Phil Chiu, and mezzo-soprano Ema Nikolovska, and others. There will also be talks with Barry Shiffman in conversation with Kronos Quartet’s David Harrington, violinist James Ehnes, an introduction to BISQC 2022’s Canadian Commission Composer, and more. The full schedule will be announced and pre-registration for free events opens at noon on Aug. 6.


– A final reminder that the deadline for responses to CIMA and Music Publishers Canada's Covid-19 Long Term Relief Survey is tomorrow (July 24). The two orgs are currently focused on lobbying the government for a broad-based, long-term relief package for the Canadian music industry, and your input here is welcomed. All answers will remain confidential and will be shared in aggregate only with key decision-makers in government.

– After “postponing” the July 24-27 edition of the Shambhala Music due to covid, organizers have now postponed a July 23-25 at-home edition because one of the artists scheduled has been accused of “sexual violence.” The BC-based dance festival set in rural BC has a record of stringent safeguards protecting attendees, but cancelling or postponing a virtual program on the basis of allegations made against one artist has to be a first in the annals of festivals history.

– The German government is spending C$150K to conduct contact tracing on 4,000 concert attendees in Leipzig that will use a battery of high-tech tools to map the spread of germs and disease in the hall. The state-sponsored experiment seeks to identify a framework for how mass gatherings can return without posing a danger to the population in Germany after Sept. 30, when many of the country’s safeguards expire. Currently, concerts with more than 1K attendees are banned throughout the country until the end of Aug.

– A popular Waterloo, ON,  bar and music venue will not reopen its doors. Starlight Social Club owner Josh Koehler confirmed to CTV that the venue has closed permanently after 15 years. The bar hosted a couple of live shows each week with a maximum capacity of 300. Those shows have included such popular Canadian acts as  54-40, the Arkells, Bahamas, Joel Plaskett, Grapes of Wrath, Sloan, Tokyo Police Club and Whitehorse. Koehler says that the live music part of the business had been difficult leading up to the restrictions put in place because of Covid-19, plus it had been hard getting people out to the shows in the previous year.


– The latest Toronto live music venue casualty of covid is jazz club and resto N'Awlins Jazz Bar & Grill. It had been in business for 25 years, and a social media post states that "our longevity can be credited to all our valued patrons, staff and the extraordinary number of musicians over the years - many of which would represent Canada on the global stage. The current situation surrounding the pandemic, including the regulations for restaurants and live music, makes it impossible to maintain our quality, standards and spirit. Which is why it is so difficult to say goodbye." 

Saddened by the news is veteran jazz composer/pianist (and regular FYI contributor), Bill King who comments that "there’s nothing more disappointing for us players than the loss of a reliable performance venue. After years of working mainly in the corporate arena as the music director for major events, returning to the cozy confines of club work brought with it the comfort and challenge of playing new material and the interplay with other musicians. There was a genuine spirit and joy walking through the front door there and sitting in front of a real piano. The staff was amazing, my music partners, amazing."


– Toronto-based LyricFind, described as the world’s leader in licensed lyrics solutions, is expanding its services in Asia and Africa with two new remote teams in India and South Africa.  LyricFind’s new language team in India will be focused on extensive charts and back catalogue in Hindi and Marathi, with more regional languages on the way. The new team in Johannesburg, South Africa will cover ten essential southern African languages including Afrikaans, Zulu, Sotho, Xhosa, Tsonga, Venda, Tswana, Northern Sotho, Swati, and Ndebele. Other African languages are in the works for later this year.

– A pair of Saskatchewan acts will help welcome the return of live music to Saskatoon’s TCU Place, where the pandemic has muted stages for months. The Sid Buckwold Theatre will host one-hour concerts Aug. 6 and Aug. 8, the first since mid-March. Prince Albert singer-songwriter Donny Parenteau plays Aug. 6 and Ponteix, a psych-pop group from Saskatoon, appears Aug. 8. Source: Star-Phoenix

– SOCAN recently presented Canadian rock “supergroup” Anyway Gang with a No. 1 Song Award for Big Night, which topped the Billboard Modern Rock Chart on both Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, 2019. The self-published song is co-written and performed by the Anyway Gang members, Sam Roberts of Sam Roberts Band, Chris Murphy of Sloan, Menno Versteeg of Hollerado, and Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club.

– Toronto music venue Array Space is asking for help to keep its doors open, reports NOW. The space functions as a rehearsal space/recording studio/live music venue, but the pandemic has drastically curtailed its revenue flow. “Since mid-March, we’ve not earned any of the typical revenues we rely on from renting to artists – who themselves rely upon Array’s space for their livelihoods, community engagement, and artistic practices,” writes Arraymusic chair Mark Wilson in an email to supporters. 


Annie Ross (born Annabel Short), the British singer who became globally famous with jazz vocal trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross and had a varied acting career, died on July 21, aged 89, at her home in New York City.

Her death was due to emphysema and heart disease, confirmed her manager, Jim Coleman.

Ross was born Annabel Short in 1930 to Scottish vaudeville artists John and Mary Short, with the family emigrating to New York when Ross was four. She went to live with her musical-theatre star aunt, Ella Logan, and quickly earned childhood acting roles, including an appearance alongside Judy Garland in 1943’s Presenting Lily Mars.

After a spell back in Europe, she settled in New York where she began recording songs both solo and as a trio with Dave Lambert and Jon Hendricks. She was a proponent of vocalese, a singing style where the vocal line is matched to the melody of a jazz improvisation. A key example is their 1959 album Sing Along With Basie, a collaboration with Count Basie’s jazz orchestra, later awarded a hall of fame Grammy award in 1998. The trio recorded seven albums, including 1962’s The Real Ambassadors in collaboration with Louis Armstrong and Dave Brubeck.

Ross’s solo vocalese song Twisted was a hit in 1952 and was covered by Joni Mitchell for her album Court and Spark, as well as by Bette Midler. She also collaborated with trumpeter-vocalist Chet Baker and others.

She left the trio and New York to beat a heroin addiction. She opened a nightclub in London, where Nina Simone was among the performers, and returned to acting after declaring bankruptcy. As well as roles in Superman III, Throw Momma from the Train and the Alfie sequel Alfie Darling, she also provided the speaking voice for Britt Ekland in The Wicker Man. She also continued singing in theatres and nightclubs.

Robert Altman cast Ross in The Player and his acclaimed 1993 film Short Cuts. Source: The Guardian

Rick Ross performs during the "Miami Jazz In The Gardens" music festival at Hard Rock Stadium on March 09, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Rick Ross performs during the "Miami Jazz In The Gardens" music festival at Hard Rock Stadium on March 09, 2024 in Miami Gardens, Florida.

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