Sing-along livestreams are a staple for Shelley Vaags’ daily routine and have been since the pandemic began.
When the Langford woman was laid off from her bartending job at the Langford Legion on March 15, her first concern was about the well-being of her customers, especially seniors, that she served.
“I was worried about how they would cope without having someone to talk to,” said Vaags. “That’s when I realized that I could take my guitar and start playing their favourite songs.”
She shared her first livestream under the Facebook page, Live Senior Singalong, on March 19, which has since garnered more than 800 views. Before the pandemic, she regularly played at senior homes. Though she felt nervous to perform to a silent audience, she grinned and began singing song after song.
These days, most videos last an hour and have between 100 to 300 views, with viewers tuning in from across the province, the country, and even from the UK, Syria and Pakistan. She dresses in gaudy hats, from one made of straw to a bright pink and feathery cowboy hat. When someone comments that it’s their birthday, she plops a birthday hat onto her head.
“I really don’t like to think of myself as campy, but the reaction has been heartwarming,” said Vaags. “Once in a while my son joins and we switch hats between every song. The joy that I get from doing this feels more like it’s benefiting me more than them sometimes.”
Vaags vividly remembers the moment she fell in love with the guitar.
In her early teens, her uncle came to visit one summer and accidentally sat on and broke the ukulele she was learning to play. He apologized and gave her his own guitar, encouraging her to learn three songs by heart for the next time he visited. She never looked back.
As the province continues rolling out the next phase of its economic plan, Vaags has plans to return to work. She’s scheduled to start by the beginning of June.
Luckily, another artist volunteered to take over Live Senior Singalong – Chaz Booth, a Parksville man who found the Facebook page on a whim. The musician, originally from the UK, will continue taking song requests and giving viewers a break from their day-to-day routines.
“I’m so thankful for this experience,” said Vaags. “When I think back in years to come, it’s always gonna be that pocket of time where I hopefully was able to bring a little bit of positivity into the world.”