Toronto-area music festivals return to outdoor performances after pandemic 18-month hiatus
The heat won’t stop the music this weekend in the Greater Toronto Area.
After more than a year of virtual performances and Zoom calls, some members of the city’s music community are more than excited to finally host live performances outside.
Local artists, musicians, comedians, directors and performers are back in the spotlight at several festivals this weekend. With the warm weather and relaxed public health restrictions – especially outdoors – it’s a welcome relief, they say.
“This is our first public performance since the start of the pandemic,” said Donna Garner, artistic director of Garner Theater Productions. The company started hosting a free live concert at Monarch Park on Saturday, and there will be another one on Sunday starting at 2:15 p.m. ET.
We need to do what we can to keep people engaged with more than a screen on their face.– Donna Garner, Artistic Director, Garner Theater Productions
Garner’s lineup features professional actor-musicians who have performed in North America, Japan and Austria. The show also invites audience members to participate by providing lyrics and chords for singing or playing with their own instruments.
“I’ve been planning this one for over a year,” Garner said. “We have to do what we can to keep people engaged with more than a screen on their face.”
This is an important event for Garner, as the music transported her and her co-musicians through the pandemic.
“Expressing myself in music, in text, as an actor, has really fueled my growth as a human being,” she said.
One of the guitarists on his show says that despite the warm weather, it is “such a joy” to play outside again, in front of a live audience.
“It’s so great to be able to hear people singing and playing without the Zoom delay,” said Hanuel Yi.
In another corner of town – at Lynx Music on Emerson Avenue – the MixTO festival is back for 2021 after its 2019 debut. This weekend, it features an eclectic mix of artists showcasing diverse musical talent and the cultural origins of the city. A full festival, it also features food vendors, kids’ activities, and custom visual art installations in addition to several musical performances by bands, DJs, and artists.
“We are really happy to be back for a festival in person,” said Alexander Bordokas, artistic director of Uma Nota Music and Production. “But it’s a hybrid event. Everything we learned last year, we’re applying it as much as possible this year.”
It refers to Zoom calls, online content production and public health restrictions during the last year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to learn to become television producers,” he added, noting that the pandemic had pushed musicians online.
As a result, MixTO 2021 is being streamed online, with additional content available.
The festival ends Sunday evening with a reggae performance.
“It’s about good music, about expression, about being together, on the outside,” Bordokas said.
In Mississauga, at the Paramount Fine Foods Center, the annual Carassauga Festival returns as a live concert this weekend. In Markham, the TD Markham Jazz Festival is hosting a virtual concert series with the goal of returning to in-person performances next year.