N.S. musicians use social media to spread love during pandemic

Nova Scotia musicians are using their craft in novel ways to entertain, build community and send love at a time when self-isolation and physical distancing is the new normal.

One of the burgeoning initiatives helping to bridge the ever-present six-foot gap is called Covers for Comfort — a musical telegram of sorts that lets people request and dedicate a song to a loved one.

A local artist records themselves performing the song, along with a personalized message from the requester to the recipient.

Longtime friends Carla Bezanson and Kirsten Wells came up with the idea in late March. Bezanson said she was inspired by seniors in nursing homes who are unable to see their families.

“Just thinking about how lonely and how difficult that must be, and not only for the seniors themselves, but for their families too,” said Bezanson, a program co-ordinator with the province’s Justice Department who is currently working from home.

“I thought, what can we do to try and ease the pain of that and make this a little bit easier? Music has a way of cheering people up.”

Bezanson and Wells, both graduates of the music arts program at NSCC, reached out to about 15 musician friends to put their plan into motion.

The women take requests through social media and by email, and then post the requested song in a group chat with the pool of musicians, which has since grown to about 50 artists.

Someone claims the song, and a few days later, sends in a recording. It is sent directly to the recipient and with permission from the musician and the person who made the request, it is also posted to Instagram and Facebook.

Some of the performances include Dylan Guthro singing Avicii’s Wake Me Up, Will Hansen playing Hey Good Lookin’ by Hank Williams and Lindsay Misiner performing Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee

They’re now receiving about 15 requests a day.

“It’s become something so much bigger than we ever imagined,” said Wells, an early childhood educator who works at a daycare that has been closed as a result of the outbreak.

“We have gotten so many emails back, so many messages about people crying when they saw the videos and thanking us for our time…. The response has been overwhelming, to say the least.”

Wells and Bezanson even facilitated a live phone call performance for a daughter who requested Bette Midler’s Wind Beneath My Wings for her mother in the hospital.

Susan and John Feltmate called her hospital room and performed the ballad as a duet, prompting tears from both the mother and daughter.

Bezanson said they’ll continue the initiative as long as requests are coming in. She said it could even expand to other provinces, as someone from western Canada reached out to ask permission to mimic the idea.

Meanwhile in another corner of the internet, Nova Scotians are still managing to jam at a massive kitchen party despite the province’s state of emergency.

The aptly named Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party (COVID-19 Edition) Facebook group has garnered about 190,000 members in less than two weeks.

‘My mind is blown by the response’

Hundreds of videos of musicians performing original and cover songs, children singing or families dancing have been posted, prompting lively discussions in the comments.

Heather Cameron Thomson said she started the group for “selfish purposes:” she wanted to fill her Facebook feed with more positive content.

“I was having my first drink of coffee sitting at my kitchen table in the sunshine and stressing about all the things that are going on in the world right now and how different our world has become,” Cameron Thomson told CBC’s Maritime Noon.

“Music has always been a joy for us in our family, so I thought what better way than to reach out to some of our musician friends here in Pictou County and ask them to join a group where we can get a little escape from what has become the new normal.”

The group has seen posts from well-known musicians and amateurs alike, but Cameron Thomson said the tone has remained positive — quite a feat for a group of that size.

“Honestly, my mind is blown by the response,” she said.

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