Nanaimo jazz singer Narissa Young (centre) has been performing for neighbours in cul-de-sacs. (Photo courtesy Kenny Brault)

Nanaimo jazz singer entertaining neighbours in cul-de-sacs

Narissa Young performing while being mindful of social distancing

With venues closed due to COVID-19, one Nanaimo jazz singer is bringing her music to the streets.

In recent weeks Narissa Young has been performing in cul-de-sacs on Friday evenings for small groups of College Heights neighbours spaced two metres apart and those within earshot.

“I’m not trying to create a gathering,” she said. “I don’t want 100 people to show up. I’m treading lightly in that respect.”

Young said the decision to perform in the middle of the dead-end street in front of her home came after a sold-out Diana Krall tribute show she and her pianist Scott Arkell were set to perform was cancelled due to coronavirus.

“We were all so looking forward to it and I said to Scott after a couple of weeks of adjustment, ‘Well, we can’t just not play music together,’” Young said. “I said, ‘We have to figure this out’ and I know a lot of people were doing Zoom stuff and I wasn’t really feeling that.”

Rather than live-streaming a concert, Young dragged her PA equipment onto the street, Arkell set up his keyboard and they started playing. Young said she didn’t know what the neighbours would think but said “they were just so grateful for the connection.”

“We had a dozen or so neighbours trickle down and big smiles on their faces and, man, the gratitude from that first one was just overwhelming,” she said. “I had cards left on my front step and a gift of a bottle of wine.”

Young said performing is important to her own well-being as well as that of her audience.

“If you have a gift of music or of art, I don’t think it’s fair to keep it to yourself…” Young said. “I have this ability to share this thing that makes me feel good but also brings joy to other people. It would be wrong of me to keep it to myself.”

Last Friday, Young and her accompanists played in another cul-de-sac around the corner from her home. She said it was the first time some of those residents had a chance to meet their neighbours after years of living close to one another.

“They were so grateful to have made those connections and especially in this time,” she said. “As much as we can all be self-sufficient, we need to know that our neighbours are there for us if the need arises.”



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