Drummer Kelby MacNayr and friends play a Nov. 11 show at Hermann’s Jazz Club, part of its Community Nights series of free concerts. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Drummer Kelby MacNayr and friends play a Nov. 11 show at Hermann’s Jazz Club, part of its Community Nights series of free concerts. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Musical connections feed the soul at Victoria venue

Hermann’s does its part to put performers in front of live audiences, with free community concerts

Local music lovers have been craving live in-person performances for months.

For musicians like drummer Kelby MacNayr, the ability and opportunity to reconnect with audiences through live shows is like manna from heaven.

“I think everyone has been learning and changing on the fly, as we learn how to be safe and to keep the musicians and audiences safe,” says MacNayr, who performs with a version of Kelby and Friends the evening of Nov. 11 (7:30 p.m. showtime) at Hermann’s Jazz Club.

“It’s been a challenge to find the connection points [with listeners], which is what we as musicians really look for,” he says, referring to the separation of online shows.

“The emotional aspect and the feeling of being right there when something is created [has been largely missing]. For the musician, it’s about being the storyteller; that connection energizes us and electrifies us to be able to tell the story better.”

While performers have creatively used social media platforms and other online means to get their musical message out during the pandemic, venues forced to drastically cut capacity to allow for physical distancing have been dipping their toes in the water in 2020 when it comes to hosting live music.

A current example is the Hermann’s Community Nights series, free concerts at the downtown jazz hub that began Nov. 4 with the Tom Vickery Trio – they’ll be back Nov. 18. Hermann’s reopened in July after an extended closure, but managed to stay in the public eye by hosting livestreamed shows from the club, events that raised money for the performers and the venue. The free Community Nights shows are being made possible through sponsorships from local patrons and businesses.

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“The outpouring of love we have gotten from our audiences is incredible,” Hermann’s manager Nichola Walkden says in a release.

“I get letters from people saying that the community of this place has saved their life. We know what it means to people so we want to keep it accessible, whether it’s through our livestream or these free community nights.”

MacNayr’s five-piece band (the limit under COVID health regs) for the Nov. 11 show includes Peter Dowse on bass, Tony Genge on piano, Brooke Maxwell on tenor sax and Bryce Gilholme on trombone. Regular trumpeter Miguelito Valdez and saxophonist Roy Styffe both also play in the Naden Band, which is otherwise engaged for Remembrance Day events.

Performing a live show on Remembrance Day is special, says MacNayr, because of “my grandparents place in the war, and the fact many of our audience members know the songs from those times. They have meaning.”

Having Maxwell and Gilholme be part of the mix gives the quintet a different flavour, MacNayr says, and “allows us to draw on some of the material I associate with that era.”

To secure seats for the Nov. 11 or 18 shows, the public is asked to be at Hermann’s, 753 View St., when the doors open at 6:30 p.m. The limit for the 7:30 p.m. show is 50 attendees.

For information on future Community Nights shows, visit hermannsjazz.com, call 250-388-9166 or email info@hermannsjazz.com.

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Drummer Kelby MacNayr and friends play a Nov. 11 show at Hermann’s Jazz Club, part of its Community Nights series of free concerts. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Drummer Kelby MacNayr and friends play a Nov. 11 show at Hermann’s Jazz Club, part of its Community Nights series of free concerts. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)