The musical Advent calendar is the result of an innovative collaboration between RBC Bluesfest and the Embassy of Germany.
Lynn Saxberg Publishing
The musical Advent calendar is the result of an innovative collaboration between RBC Bluesfest and the Embassy of Germany. The videos will be posted on the embassy’s website, sogerman.ca/advent-calendar, starting late Tuesday.
Bluesfest, German Embassy launch online musical Advent calendar featuring Ottawa artists
According to Sabine Sparwasser, Germany’s ambassador to Canada, the idea for the online Advent calendar was devised in her office, while the Bluesfest team contributed the expertise to make it happen.
“The Advent calendar is a much-beloved thing in Germany,” said Sparwasser, referring to the holiday tradition of a calendar that has a small treat or gift tucked behind a flap on each day in December leading up to Christmas.
“Every day you open the little door and get the little present. You start off with a little joy in the morning, in particular when it’s dark and cold. It works up the anticipation to the 24th, which is the big present-giving day in Germany.”
Germans are known to be huge fans of music, and the German Embassy has long been a supporter of several Ottawa music festivals, including the Ottawa International Jazz Festival and Chamberfest. There’s normally a modest budget to organize and present cultural events, but because of the pandemic this year that budget was barely touched.
“It’s been a very difficult year to do anything live, and so we thought of doing something where we can engage young, local artists and spread the holiday cheer at the same time,” said Sparwasser. “We came up with the idea of the Advent calendar and found the perfect partner in Ottawa Bluesfest.”
Festival staff then turned to one of their Blues In The Schools instructors, the multi-talented artist Angelique Francis, to co-ordinate the effort, with help from her musician father, Kiran Francis, who also plays in her band.
Bluesfest executive director Mark Monahan said Francis had recently put together a promotional video for the school program, and the results were impressive.
All 24 of the Advent calendar videos were shot at Festival House over one weekend, with Angelique and her father handling the myriad details, including producing, directing, shooting, editing, engineering and mixing and mastering the audio. They also rounded up a selection of artists representing the diversity of the Ottawa music scene.
In addition to Francis, Noelle and Evans, the videos feature the Inuit throat-singing duo Tarniriik, bilingual singer-songwriter Kristine St. Pierre, spoken-word artist Jamaal Jackson Rogers, soprano Cara Gilbertson-Boese, the duo of guitarist Lucas Haneman and vocalist Megan Laurence, bluesy harmonica wiz Catriona Sturton, country-folk singer Julie Corrigan and singer-pianist Jeff Rogers with guitarist JW Jones.
Most of the artists recorded two videos. The song selections include Christmas carols and winter-themed tunes, along with German favourites, secular standards and tidings from other cultures.
“This year is like no other year before, but the bright side is we’ve had to be more creative to reach out to people,” said Sparwasser. “We’re hopeful that with this calendar, maybe we’re going to reach people we’ve never had a chance to come into contact with before. And it gives artists a little something to do and a little revenue.”