During the Covid-19 lockdown people fell into two categories; those who were paid and those who weren't. Working musicians fell into the second.
The week before level 4 lockdown the Whanganui Musicians Club hosted Australian musician, Isiah P Blunt. Isiah usually draws a good crowd but nobody came that night. We gave him the float and the club was out of pocket.
Since then the musicians club has had three months without income. No club nights, no touring musicians and concerts, no therapy jams for disabled musicians, no band practices, no bookings for weddings and birthdays, no housie. Apart from a few memberships income was zero.
But we still face the council land lease (we own the building), rates, insurance, fire inspection, phone and power as well as building maintenance. Feelers to Creative New Zealand about assistance haven't gone anywhere. Nobody was being paid, we are all volunteers, nobody had a WINZ number, so we drew a blank there.
At level 3 we did some maintenance. We brought the wiring in the flat up to spec and sprayed the skylights for lichen, stuff like that. At level 2 we started band practices and the disabled musicians continued their sessions. There were no group hugs, but people were pleased to see one another again.
As a way of getting cashflow going again the club has decided to have its First Friday club night, this Friday, the first Friday of June. To comply under level 2 regulations club night will be limited to members only.
The membership year starts on April 1 and membership this year is $30, payable at the door. Members can then enjoy discounts for the rest of the year. By law, attendance will be limited to 100, so it may pay to get there early.
The Whanganui Musicians Club will also be running its Sunday Sessions again this year. Instead of the honky tonk cabaret format of the First Friday the Sunday Sessions will have seating in rows for a quiet audience. Both events will be blackboard concerts, with guest musicians when we can arrange them.
Working musicians rely on gatherings of people. Precarious at the best of times, during lockdown, musicians' incomes disappeared. All concerts were cancelled, cruise ships stopped hiring bands and "live" music retreated to the internet.
It was not a year ago that Jan Preston played at the Whanganui Musicians Club. Jan loved our heritage music hall, attacked our sound man and put on a great show - being the diva that she is. "You know which is your best piano?" Jan asked me later that night.
The club has three old pianos and Jan led me out to the one in the carport. "Listen to the bottom end of this baby," she said, laying down some honky tonk rhythm. Some of the high notes are a bit out (she was right) but the bottom, great."
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A performance usually has three elements: the performer, the audience and the venue.
Sometimes they all come together and make you want to boogie, so boogie on down to the Whanganui Musicians Club, 65 Drews Ave this Friday, June 5.
Doors open at 6pm, get down early and put your name on the board.