Two concerts next month will be the first live performances to grace Yellowknife’s Northern Arts and Cultural Centre since the end of May.
When gathering restrictions were lifted across the territory in June, the centre – known as NACC – started preparing to relaunch after months of shuttered shows. Then the territory’s largest Covid-19 outbreak to date brought their reopening plans to a halt.
“It was very stressful,” said Marie Coderre, NACC’s executive director.
Next month, live performances return with concerts from 7:30pm on December 10 and 11.
“We’re very happy because at first we were supposed to just record the show, with no events, and present it in February online. But now we can have 198 patrons per show,” said Coderre.
“Which is the biggest event we will [have had] since March 2020, because last year we were just able to welcome 50 people in the room. So that’s a big step forward. I’m super thrilled about it.”
The shows are part of a cross-country concert series titled Music from the Edges of Canada. The series’ 11 concerts feature 22 artists at four theatres across three coasts.
Braden said the prospect is exciting.
“The people that are there, I’m expecting, will be just thrilled to be in a space where they’re hearing music that’s not through computer speakers or headphones – that we actually get to touch each other through sounds,” she said.
“Literally the sound waves we make will go into people’s ears, which, for me, is how music is meant to be heard.
“To be in the same room, and to have the new material that I’ve been working on in isolation, remotely… to have that actually in a shared space is going to be so special.”
Bettger finds a silver lining in the way the pandemic has garnered attention for local artists.
“Some things that Covid has provided us have actually been beneficial, for lack of a better description, and I think one of them is that it has forced us to look around where we are, and explore where we live,” she said.
“That’s both in the natural world and also in the arts, that very real, vibrant art scene that exists here in Yellowknife and in the Northwest Territories. People have been almost forced to look deeper into what we have right here, rather than always looking elsewhere for more.
“Maybe now people have gone down that road, they’ll continue to include that in their everyday enjoyment of all of the arts.”
The return of live shows isn’t just helping artists and attendees reclaim a sense of normalcy.
The pandemic created new financial challenges for NACC. Fifty-five percent of the centre’s income is derived from public funding, meaning the other 45 percent must come from general income – things like sponsorship, private revenue, ticket sales, fundraisers, rentals, and concessions. Those income streams have been sorely lacking over the past few months.
“If we want to be back to normal, we need to reintroduce our general income and the ticket sales is one first big step forward,” she said.
There will be new screening requirements before shows.
According to Coderre, new protocols include presenting proof of vaccination. Other information from attendees, such as names and addresses, will also need to be collected.
Due to those new policies, Coderre advises attendees to arrive “way earlier than normal if we want to start the show on time.”
You can find more information and purchase tickets for the shows on NACC’s website.
Correction: November 18, 2021 – 10:50 MT. An earlier version of this article, based on an interview with NACC’s executive and artistic director, stated proof of a negative Covid-19 test would allow access to shows. NACC has subsequently corrected this. Proof of vaccination (if you’re eligible to be vaccinated) will be required.