Addressing the URGNT need for music in these weird times

There’s another musical way to get through your Coronavirus isolation. 

URGNT, self-described as a “musical movement” from Mark Marczyk of Lemon Bucket Orchestra, is a series of livestreamed concerts from venues in Toronto that are otherwise empty due to the pandemic. URGNT is featuring all local musicians in local venues, several times a week, for the duration of this health crisis, as a way to help those who need it most. 

The first URGNT shows were Measha Brueggergosman and Moskitto Bar, but that was just the beginning. 

On Monday, URGNT will feature Moscow Apartment at Antikka Cafe & Records on Queen Street on the organization’s Instagram page, with a time to be confirmed. Later in the week, on March 26, another show is set but not yet set in stone. Keep your eyes tuned to the account., or check out the Maclean’s page — Maclean’s is a lead sponsor of these events. 

The whole world has changed in the past two weeks, with artists cancelling or postponing shows out of an abundance of caution as Covid-19 spreads rapidly around the world. It’s created, on top of everything else, a vacuum where people who would normally turn to music to make their lives better, or for a distraction, can’t do so in a normal way. Musicians who want nothing more than to perform are having to be creative, and URGENT is just one of many organizations trying to help in this really weird time. 

“URGNT LIVE is an ad hoc crowd-funded livestream series of 19 concerts in empty venues, created in response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” the organization says. “The URGNT goals are: to unify the arts industry in Toronto (musicians, presenters, technicians, organizers) in a safe and creative way; to raise money to pay a nominal fee to all involved parties to help with lost gigs and wages as a result of the quarantine; to document this unique period in history; and to make compelling content available to audiences when they need it most.” 

The shows will each be livestreamed from a Toronto venue that’s otherwise dark, including The Great Hall, Lula Lounge, The Dakota Tavern, Wheat Sheaf, Communist’s Daughter, Drom Taberna, Today/Tonight Live Happenings Bar, 918 Bathurst, BSMT 254 and Koerner Hall. 

Among the artists involved include soprano singer Measha Brueggergrosman, Mexican singer-songwriter Quique Escamilla, Indigenous duo Digging Roots, indie rock group Moscow Apartment, DJ Skratch Bastid, lyricist Han Han, Cuban soul artists Okan, JUNO winners Allison Au Quartet, chamber music group Gryphon Trio and the Lemon Bucket Orkestra. 

This is just a preliminary list, with more acts and venues to be announced as… all this… continues. 

It’s the brain child of Mark Marczyk of Lemon Bucket Orkestra and began “as a call out in a Facebook post” but “has been growing rapidly as an initiative Marczyk established just over a week ago alongside long-term colleagues and key community members, Jaash Singh, Tamar Ilana, Alex Bordokas and Oksana Hawrylak.” 

“How can we become advocates of the whole diverse ecology of our live music sector in this time of crisis and bring attention to the artists, venues, technicians, promoters and arts workers who themselves bring value to our economy and quality of life,” Marczyk said. “We need this. Our city needs this. The whole world needs this. Italians quarantined in apartment blocks have been staging sing-alongs from their balconies. European opera houses are releasing their coveted video archives to the public. Symphonies are being performed in front of no one. We are all being creative in the face of adversity to remember our humanity.” 

The whole effort is affiliated with a Go Fund Me campaign to help support those who now find themselves out of work — temporarily. Because one day, hopefully not too far from now, the bans will be lifted and the bands will strike up once again. And we’ll all be there, in the audience, together and ready to sing. 

Sponsors of the 19-show event include Maclean’s, iHeartRadio Canada, Solotech and the Royal Conservatory.  More information is available here. 

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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