Original Published 10:23 Jun 06, 2022
By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Following two years of disruptions and uncertainty, Medicine Hat Jazzfest organizers are prioritizing attendee comfort as the festival returns to in-person shows.
The annual festival, now in its 26th year, draws musicians from across the world to Medicine Hat for a week-long celebration of jazz.
“It is definitely about the jazz music, but it’s much more than that,” Lyle Rebbeck, Jazzfest executive and artistic director, told the News. “An awful lot of the value of any festival, the jazz festival included, is the community it creates. (It allows people) to be together, to celebrate, to enjoy the music together, to dance and to just hear something really beautiful.”
Forced to cancel in 2020, the festival went virtual for the first time last year. While Rebbeck and other organizers were happy with the 2021 on-line turnout, they wanted to reintroduce in-person shows for this year’s festival.
While the province’s public health measures no longer place limitations on in-person gatherings, Rebbeck and his team wanted to make this year’s Jazzfest accommodating for individuals with varying levels of comfort.
“While people were very excited about the festival coming back, there were still definitely concerns about safety precautions,” Rebbeck said. “We did a lot of research (because) we really wanted to get a strong sense of where our community was at.
“We decided we were going to definitely come back, but we were going to try to find a balanced approach between doing everything the way we used to do it, and not doing it all. There’s no clear path through but we’ve tried to find a middle ground, based on feedback, research and consultation.”
To ensure audiences are comfortable, most performances are being held outside on the Esplanade’s terrace. Distanced seating options are available at all venues. And a colour-coded bracelet system is being used to indicate each individual’s social distancing preferences. As well, the festival is being live-streamed for those who don’t yet feel ready to join in group settings.
Rebbeck hopes attendees in all formats enjoy this year’s festival, which features 11 acts, including Amanda Tosoff and Emilie-Claire Barlow, Baritone Madness, Calgary Latin Orchestra, Ciara Hager Quartet, Elizabeth Shepard and Michael Occhipinti, Esteban Herrera Quintet, Jocelyn Gould, Laila Biali, Sanah Kadoura Duality, the Heavyweight Brass Band and Under the Surface.
“We’re incredibly excited to be bringing artists back to the city from all around the world. And to be bringing this celebration back to the people in our community,” Rebbeck said.
Medicine Hat Jazzfest runs from June 21-26. Tickets are available at the Esplanade or at tixx.ca.
For more information and festival schedule, visit medicinehatjazzfest.com.
This item reprinted with permission from Medicine Hat News, Medicine Hat, Alberta