Calgary musician creates online music venue while COVID blocks live performances

Sound of Music: Keith Dundas sits at his computer while hosting Keith’s Hootenanny over Zoom in Calgary on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. Keith’s Hootenanny streams every Friday evening and allows musicians and music lovers alike to enjoy a night of performances from the comfort of their own homes. (Photo by Ethan Allan/The Press)

As the pandemic continues to shut down live music performances, Calgary musicians are turning to online platforms to keep the music alive.

I think there’s always something different about a performance that’s different than playing for your friends and family,” said Keith Dundas, founder and host of Keith’s Hootenanny.

Hosted every Friday, Keith’s Hootenanny aims to give musicians and music lovers alike a place to virtually connect at a time where they cannot do so in person.

While a Zoom meeting is no replacement for the experience of live performances, the online hootenanny is still a valuable and entertaining space during these times.

“I hope to be back on stage with a full band as soon as possible, but until then, connecting by any route has tremendous value,” said Ross Pambrun, a regular musician on Keith’s Hootenanny.

Part of being a successful musician is being able to share your work and form a connection with your audiences, and online venues create an easy space to do just that.

“I have always enjoyed sharing my energy with those who share a love for the musical arts, and I have to thank and commend people like Keith that put their skills and efforts into providing artists a platform to participate and share,” said Pambrun.

As an antidote to the isolating effects of the pandemic on most of the world, the hootenanny provides its guests with a night of fun and connectivity.

“This has had a much more powerful impact during the pandemic when there has been so much isolation,” said Nancy Plato, a regular viewer of the hootenanny.

Even though the virtual nature of the Hootenanny can’t entirely replace a live event in every aspect, there are some benefits to it over going out to a traditional live show.

“We can sit comfortably at home with a glass of wine or something, there are no parking issues, and we don’t have to go out in the cold weather,” said Plato.

The online format of the hootenanny doesn’t come without its technical challenges, but the musicians also face the daunting challenge of playing to a silent screen.

“One of the challenges the performers have is how to play without that ever so important feedback loop that you get from the audience, because you build on the vibe of the of the room, the vibe of the night,” said Dundas.

Many of the musicians that perform in the hootenanny are incredibly talented, but Dundas wants to focus on passion rather than skill.

This has had a much more powerful impact during the pandemic when there has been so much isolation. – Nancy Plato

“I’ve got a pro coming on this weekend and I think that’s wonderful, but I don’t think it’s wonderful because he’s a pro, I think it’s wonderful because he wants to play,” said Dundas.

Eventually, Dundas hopes that everyone can move forward through the pandemic to a point where live performances can return.

“I don’t want it to just disappear from a lack of musicians, I hope it disappears because people are out playing venues again,” said Dundas.