SUNDRE — Last weekend’s live musical performance by the Marcus Trummer Band represents the return of live music to the Sundre Arts Centre.
Although the Sundre & District Allied Arts Society, which runs the facility, has held a few other events in recent months, Saturday’s show was the first indoor musical performance offered to the community since the pandemic began.
But it wasn’t for lack of effort or desire.
“We had another couple of acts lined up before them (Marcus Trummer Band),” said Cindy Orr, who is one of four executive members of the society’s committee.
“The first was The Traveling Mabels. They are really popular, a local favorite. But every time we tried to host them, there were restriction changes right before the gig. We have had to cancel this several times now,” she explained.
And in November, an appearance by Rachelle van Zanten was also delayed. However, the company eventually plans to postpone both in the hopefully not too distant future, sometime later this year, she said.
In the days leading up to last Saturday’s show, Orr said ticket sales were improving.
“We are running the building with the same kind of modified restrictions that we had for our other events,” she said, referring to the BS Productions performance in November as well as the Christmas dance recitals held in December. by Studio K Dance Gallery.
In a nutshell, it means proceeding under the provincial government’s Restriction Exemption Program. The organizers have also chosen to reduce the number of seats available, partly to alleviate potential concerns related to COVID-19, but mainly to improve people’s general comfort.
“Table and chair capacity is 130 people for the site,” she said, adding that the facility also had a different fire code to accommodate 180 people under congregation-style seating.
“There may be a few people in there. So we capped it at 90 just to have a little more room for people to feel comfortable.
In addition, efforts were made to ensure the best possible ventilation of the air in the building, including some open windows as well as fresh air intakes for the operation of the furnace, she said.
“We’re also taking other factors to help mitigate COVID issues,” she said.
And due to the uncertainty created by the roller coaster of restrictions over the past two years, the company has also adjusted its refund policy so that anyone who feels unwell can request a refund.
“We don’t want anybody coming in who’s not feeling well,” she said.
“A whole trip to get back here”
The company has certainly not emerged unscathed from the pandemic, but seems to have weathered the storm so far.
“It’s been tough, for sure,” Orr said.
During the first public health measures introduced at the very start of the pandemic in March 2020, The Traveling Mabels had been scheduled to play.
“That (concert) was canceled immediately,” she said. “Basically all other activities for the rest of the school year have also been cancelled.”
There were after-hours programs, including dance groups, which were able to continue in a modified format, she said.
When restrictions changed again in the fall of 2020, there was a back and forth on video classes and eventually back to in-person classes.
“We have tried to keep the site open while respecting each new rule change. So it took a lot of juggling to make sure we were compliant and people felt safe,” she said.
The substantial reduction in rental income to offset costs the company could not control was perhaps the biggest hurdle to overcome, she said.
“We were very lucky as the high school band (Sundre) needed extra space when the COVID restrictions were first introduced as wind instruments were a concern,” she said.
“So they were able to use the facility during the day. And the dance could continue too. But they all had small class sizes.
However, before the pandemic, the center was usually full, she said.
“It makes a big difference to our operating expenses and what we can cover.”
The company therefore decided to apply for certain grants through the Government of Alberta, and was subsequently approved for financial assistance in the deployment of COVID safety measures as well as the Stabilize program.
“It was a huge help,” she said of the latter. “It helped us recoup some of those costs that we were at a loss for, like building insurance and operating costs.”
Meanwhile, the board has remained busy updating the society’s bylaws, working on its website and proposing fundraising initiatives, she said.
In the years leading up to the pandemic, she said the company managed to build up its reserves to work on some projects the committee had in mind. Of course, COVID-19 derailed those plans.
“We basically withdrew all of those savings to cover our operating expenses,” she said. “The Stabilize grant from the Government of Alberta has really saved us because we have been able to replenish our savings and we can look forward to moving forward with some of the projects we have been saving for for several years. »
Although the company was also made aware of available grants from the federal government, Orr said the group had already essentially covered its losses through the stabilization program and decided not to “double the deductions”.
“So we didn’t apply for those,” she said, praising the municipality’s efforts to communicate the options to nonprofit groups.
“The City of Sundre has also been excellent in sharing information about grants,” she said, adding that emails had been sent out with details of available grants.
The committee is thrilled to finally be able to bring live indoor music performances back for the community, she said.
“It took a long time to come. It was pretty big when we launched BS Productions in November,” she said.
“But to have a gig, we can sell tickets – and people have bought tickets – and we’re still able to go on…we’re really excited. It’s been quite a journey to get back here.