With just a few days left in the 39 Days of July, organizer Longevity John Falkner said the event so far this year has been tremendous.
But it didn’t start that way.
Falkner, considered the leading founder of the popular nine-year-old annual event, which usually consists of a series of outdoor musical events primarily at venues in Charles Hoey Park and City Square in Duncan, said the Duncan Cowichan Festival Society had this year’s 39 Days of July almost completely organized by the middle of March.
But that changed with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, and new rules around social distancing that don’t allow the gathering of large crowds for musical performances that the event typically depends on.
“By March 15, we had to throw all that away and start all over again,” Falkner said.
“But the decision to live-stream the musical performances in the 39 Days of July from the Duncan Showroom stage was a marvelous idea. We knew we had to give up the ‘community-gathering feeling’ at the event this year, but we discovered a much more broad way to connect with people through live streaming and we had people watch from all over the world, proving that Duncan is a fun place to be.”
The Duncan Showroom, a well-respected music venue located in the heart of downtown Duncan and operated by Falkner, has more than 2,000 live streamed concerts already archived on its YouTube channel that were produced over an eight year period, and organizers of the 39 Days of July were confident they could still fill the event’s musical roster, despite the ongoing health crisis.
“We had to cut about 50 to 60 mostly afternoon spots during the event this year, but we filled 290 spots from the original 345 and that worked remarkably well for us,” Falkner said.
“The 39 Days of July usually capitalized on musicians on tour who would play here between their other venues, but most tours were cancelled this year so we had to focus on artists from Vancouver Island and it was great to showcase just how much talent there is here.”
Falkner said the live-stream format worked well for the musicians who had their performances shown across the world.
“As for the viewers, the live-streaming format has proven to us that people enjoy having music delivered to them at a time of their choice,” he said.
“Before, they would look at the schedule of performances for the 39 Days of July and see a show they would like to see, but would have to miss it because of other commitments. Now they can watch it anytime they like from their own living rooms, or anywhere else where they can see it live streamed.”
Falkner said it’s still too early to determine what the status of the pandemic will be next year, but even if the 39 Days of July is able to return to its more traditional venues in public parks, he’s sure live streaming will continue to play a part in the event in future years.
He said the Wine Down Wednesday’s part of the event will run through August, as usual, in cooperation with local wineries, but live-streaming will also be used for the musical productions.
“On Wednesday evenings in August, we’ll be supplying music that goes with wine tasting, and we’re is discussions with a number of local wineries about it,” Falkner said.
“We’ve already confirmed we’ll be working with the Old Firehouse Wine Bar and supplying a visual and audio feed of the music being performed in the Showroom to their extended patio/parking lot patio from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 5, 12, 18, and 26. Reservations are recommended.”
Falkner said planning also continues for the 40th Day of July event, which will also be live streamed on Sept. 6, 2 p.m. to 9 p.m.
“We’re certainly having the time of our lives this year,” he said.
“COVID-19 was actually a blessing in disguise for us because it allowed us the whole new freedom of providing musical performances with no restraints to new genres that we wouldn’t be able to in an outdoor show meant mostly for families.”
But Falkner said one of his few complaints this year is the lack of access of the live streaming to seniors and those with special needs.
“We’re trying to find ways, and the Showroom will be broadcasting the Special Woodstock music festival for those with special needs on Aug. 16,” he said.