Graham Lindsey  Photo: Dick Budge
Graham Lindsey Photo: Dick Budge

Canadian Folk Music Awards Go Live...Online

The show must go on.

In a COVID-19 free world, The 2020 Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMAs) would have been held on the weekend of April 3-4 in Charlottetown, PEI. The pandemic, however, forced the CFMAs to cancel the live shows and weekend celebrations, but the decision has been made to move the Awards celebration online this year.

All 20 Awards will be presented virtually, on Sat. Apr 4 at 7 pm EDT via the CFMAs Facebook page and website. Bilingual hosts Jean Hewson (from Newfoundland) and Benoit Bourque (from Québec) will review all the CFMA categories and nominees, and announce recipients, including the Unsung Hero Award Presentation, along with announcing the location of the 2021 event. 

Graham Lindsey, the Vice President of the Canadian Folk Music Awards, is a key figure in the process of taking the Awards online this year. In an interview with FYI yesterday, he explained that "I have a background in video production and online media and run my own media production company, so I've done my best to bring my video capabilities to the CFMAs." My Ottawa-based company, Wavelength Media, will be where the pre-recorded video will be live-streamed."

 "We’re very excited to be recognizing our nominees, though it will be a different format than our usual celebration,"  Lindsey says. "Since we’ve been live-streaming the awards for many years, the actual mechanism to stream video is in-place.  We wanted to celebrate the nominees and recipients despite our not actually being able to gather in Charlottetown.

"A few members of our team had a similar idea for a replacement show that could air during the weekend we were to hold the CFMAs, so I called a couple of members of our team to hash out the idea and sent it to the board.  The actual decision was made fairly quickly because it was essentially using an existing model that everyone knew worked and, of course, we felt it was important to move forward with a show of some sort."

Response to the news of the show proceeding has been positive, Lindsey reports. “We are ecstatic to hear that everyone is so enthusiastic about our plan to celebrate all the nominees and recipients. Of course, we would rather be meeting in person, but given that nobody in the country is supposed to be spending time with others, we feel this is the very best option. This morning I heard from another member of our team that artists were contacting her with their thanks for our decision to proceed in this way, and some who had previously indicated that they would not be able to attend would now be able to catch the show.  It seems like a very positive reaction from all parties."

"With so many moving parts we saw an opportunity to focus on celebrating our nominees and recipients now.  We didn't see this in our first few days of isolation, but it's becoming more important that everyone is physically isolated but also socially included, and we're excited to see and participate in the interaction on Facebook and YouTube."

He acknowledges that "We briefly discussed rescheduling, but there are so many different variables that would have to be re-planned that it would be almost the same amount of work as planning the whole show again.  There's no guarantee the artists performing at our Awards Concerts and Showcases would be available, and the artists and their friends, family as well as the local audience might be elsewhere.  Essentially, we would have had to re-plan the show and it wouldn't have been the same, no matter when we held it, plus so many artists are playing tours, venues and events they’ve booked months earlier. We could see that the COVID-19 pandemic was gaining strength around the world, and we didn’t know when it would be safe to plan something in the future."

Preparations for the show are proceeding apace. Lindsey explains that "I will be editing and streaming the pre-recorded video, at 7 pm ET on April 4th, but other board members are recording and sending me their video clips, and I'm working with the hosts to determine how they can record their video so they can actually interact and not just read a script to camera. Already, there have been vast hours spent by our board members to write the script, organize the artist/album text and album covers, and so much more.

"I’m very pleased with the progress being made, and as you might expect there’s a lot of discussion and planning happening right now. I’m starting to receive the pieces of the video (different graphics, text, images, voiceover audio files) and the videos are to come."

The element of surprise at the Awards is being retained, assures Lindsey. "Rather than tell people in advance, we're keeping this information to a very small number of people so the recipients will be a surprise not only to the musicians and other viewers but the sponsors and presenters as well."

Already announced as the recipient of the Slaight Music Unsung Hero Award for the 2020 CFMAs is East Coast musician and radio host Donnie Campbell.

Lindsey explains that "the show will likely end up being a little longer than 30 minutes.  With all the live shows happening on social media, we want to have our show be focused on the presentation of the awards, and then we can let our nominees (and so many other artists) resume playing the online performances that have been connecting artists with their audiences around the world."

He adds that "We will not be having any musical performances as part of the show.  It might have worked at one point to have some pre-recorded performances specifically for the show, however, we have been asked to not visit friends, so no performances are possible while still preventing the spread of COVID-19.  We also realize there are lots of musicians filling the need for performers on social media."

Read a full list of 2020 CFMA nominees here

About the Canadian Folk Music Awards (CFMAs):

Established in 2005, the Canadian Folk Music Awards celebrate the breadth and depth of folk music in Canada. Established as a non-profit, the mission of the CFMAs is to celebrate and promote Canadian folk music in all its forms.

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