Norfolk Musical Arts Fest returns to live format

Only solo competitions this week, no bands or choirs

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Organizers of the Norfolk Musical Arts Festival rejoiced last year that they were at least able to hold a virtual event over the internet amid the pandemic.

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But Andy Blackwood of Simcoe, chairman of this year’s festival, said the 2021 contest was a pale imitation of itself. For this reason, the festival organizers last fall decided to return to in-person performances this year.

“We weren’t sure at the time what the COVID protocols would be,” Blackwood said Monday during the first day of the three-day event.

“We then decided to do the events that were done on their own – no duets, no choirs, no school groups. We were determined to have a live festival, so we decided to keep it simple.

Fest organizers and competitors took a break last week when provincial seating guidelines for indoor events were expanded to accommodate more spectators. Instead of competitors being limited to a single spectator, multiple are now allowed. The capacity of First Baptist Church in Simcoe – site of this year’s competition – is determined by the number of masked people who can safely socially distance two meters when seated.

“It’s important to have an audience,” Blackwood said. “We are so happy to have him live. Children appreciate it much more. Next year hopefully we will be back to normal and the choirs and bands can play and we can get back to where we have been for the past 35 years.

This year, the solo format applies to entrants in the voice, piano, guitar, English and French speech and strings categories. The festival offered a solo instrumental division but there were no takers.

Jury members for this year’s festival are Amanda Brunk (vocals, spoken word arts in English and French), Emma Rush (guitars and strings) and Susan Robinson (piano).

The First Baptist competition takes place in the sanctuary. Spectators must wear masks and present proof of vaccination at the door. Proof of vaccine exemption is also accepted.

Spectators are allowed to discreetly film the performance of the musician or speaker they came to see but not of the other contestants. Spectators are asked to leave once the competitor they came to see has finished his performance.

While spectators must be masked at all times, competitors are permitted to remove their mask when talking or playing.