Emerald Specks, left, and Kendall Patrick covered John Mayer’s 2006 song ‘Waiting on the World to Change’ on June 10 during the Sounds of Summer outdoor concert series at Fitzwilliam Gate in Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter. (Mandy Moraes/News Bulletin)

Sounds of Summer outdoor series brings variety of music to Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter

Free mid-day hour-long concerts underway until mid September

An hour of complimentary live performances returns to Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter, bigger and better than before.

Until mid September, those passing through the neighbourhood can enjoy the musical stylings of a variety of multi-genre performers from 12-1 p.m every Friday afternoon in the OCQ’s Sounds of Summer outdoor concert series.

Music coordinator James McRae said that while the OCQ association engages the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association to organize the event, not all performances will be jazz.

“What confuses people sometimes is that they see the poster and think ‘Oh, well this must be a bunch of jazz music.’ And that’s actually not the case – it’s a really eclectic mix of music from singer songwriters to classical music and a lot of other musical styles in between,” said McRae.

In 2020, the series was initially planned to go longer than previous years, but the COVID-19 pandemic “kiboshed” those plans. Last year, the OCQ did request a return to the Sounds of Summer series, but in an abbreviated form due to health and safety restrictions.

“Eight of the nine performers that wanted to play for 2020 were able to in 2021. And then the ninth one, Chris Noble, he’ll be performing this year on Sept. 16,” said McRae.

The only exception to the otherwise consistently Friday schedule will be the July 2 concert, held on a Saturday, to accommodate for the stat holiday on July 1.

McRae has co-ordinated the series for five years and said the line up only seems to get bigger.

“I try not to book bands that I’ve already booked before. However, Nanaimo is not really that big of a place – but there’s a fair amount of musicians if you start exploring more deeply.”

Gerry Barnum plays the June 17 concert at Fitzwilliam Gate, 427 Fitzwilliam St., with Bijoux du Bayou performing on June 24.

“I had the idea that because of Saint-[Jean]-Baptiste Day – a fairly well-known French holiday celebrated by the people of Quebec – I wanted to have some kind of element of French culture,” said McRae.

McRae will appear alongside Andrew Homzy’s BumbleBerry Jazz Jam on July 2 at Wesley Square, 335 Wesley St.

“Andrew asked me to drum for that gig, and I said I would. I’m making an exception for that day only,” he said, adding that he usually prefers not to perform so that other groups can take the mic.

The series will continue at Wesley Square on July 8 with the Woodley Range Band, followed by Elise Boulanger on July 15, Hard Times with Lady Phyl on July 22, and Kosma Busheikin Quartet featuring Tasha Adams on July 29.

The Sounds of Summer location changes to Heritage Mews, 321 Wesley St., for August with Road Poets playing on Aug. 5, the Mac on Aug. 12, Mikaila Tombe and friends on Aug. 19, and the Harbour City String Quartet on Aug. 26.

It will conclude in September at the Station, 321 Selby St., with Duncan Symonds on Sept. 2, the Big Mess on Sept. 9, and Chris Noel and the Burning House on Sept. 16 in a two-hour finale.

READ MORE: Jazz concert series welcomes in-person music and mentorship to Nanaimo


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