The Saturday Quarantine Social

I am loathe to admit that I am a creature who craves schedules, happiest when I get to roll through months and seasons with regularity. When my girls were younger, I threw my outdoor enthusiasm into adventure Wednesdays; biking, hiking and skiing with gal pals from 9-11:30am. It was a period of pure bliss.

Things shift though, many of us re-entered the workplace. Some of us are supporting our athlete children and travel most weekends. I almost never see those ladies anymore, and it devastates me how quickly patterns can change our relationships and impact our sense of community health.

On March 17, 2020 Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC’s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency and with one measured press release, suddenly and dramatically it meant that all of us would be changing our patterns and staying home for an undetermined length of time. While the rest of us were feeling lost and adrift, the musicians were thinking of a way to support us. A quick conversation between Anie Hepher of Red Girl and Sage McBride of Shred Kelly and the Saturday Quarantine Social was born.

I wanted to dedicate this article to Mike and Anie Hepher from Red Girl because their effort to perform weekly for us was such a grounding force for my family it felt almost like an old fashioned radio program, a nod to an era where families would gather intentionally around a story.

I was also buoyed by the courage of Anie and Mike to play around with an unfamiliar platform and allow us all into their homes as they gave themselves permission to learn a new path to find their audience.

Mike explains that, “It felt very organic.
We didn’t set out with a specific idea, and
honestly the thought of doing a weekly
hour of fresh music seemed overwhelming
at first, so we started inviting friends into
the stream starting with our friends Clayton
and Joelle of The Parsons, then some farther
afield guests. Once we got into the rhythm,
the format seemed to shape itself. We’d
chat on Sunday about a theme for the next
show, and then song ideas would show
themselves to us through the week.”
The first show on March 28 had over
320 live viewers, was shared 57 times
and resulted in 7600 views. Surely, this
must mean I was not alone looking for
something more meaningful than Netflix
to anchor me. To help me appreciate the
stillness and stay connected.

The surprise for Anie and Mike was that
they thought they would be entertaining a
local audience and couldn’t have been more
surprised to see regular engagement with
viewers from Australia and Boston. “The
idea that we’d have regular viewers in farflung
places like that really showcases the
opportunity-in-disguise that a quarantine is
for musicians at a strange time like this.”
I asked Anie how they decided to set us
free. “SQS is built around a model of an
accessible audience (that is staying at home),
local support, and novel circumstances. As
Canada begins to change its stipulations
of social distancing and as spring weather
draws us outside, more options of
connection are open to folks on a Saturday
night.” When I hear her explanation, I
know it makes sense but can’t help but feel
a little vulnerable and quietly hope they do
the opposite, continuing to offer us virtual
hugs and connection.

I asked them both to share an event that
made their hearts swell over the past seven
weeks, Anie jumped in. “The night that
both our teens got involved in the evening’s
concert, was a full circle moment. Our
kids have not always been a part of our
performing lives-often been brought to
grandparents or babysitters during a gig.
So, with Wren as a performer and Finn as
sound tech, it felt like even we (as a family)
were all in this together.”

For Mike, “it wasn’t a single moment,
but the ongoing feeling of seeing the
community rally around the event. We’ve
spent a lot of time walking and would often
have people jog past and say, ‘Thanks for
the music!’ Or we’d find little prizes left on
our front step—bottles of wine, sourdough
bread, produce, homemade bagels. These
small gestures are the real-life currency of
community and the quarantine time has
really rekindled that in a way I think we’d
all forgotten about. We’ve felt buoyed by
all those unexpected gestures. Our town is
rich in community and it’s been touching
to see everyone rally together.”

I know that tuning in for seven weeks
sharpened my gaze and gave my family a
routine that we settled into very easily. We gathered around Facebook - which sounds
awful - but what a platform for musicians
right now! After the performance, we
paid for our appreciation with a delivery
of homemade bagels. It felt beautiful and
challenged me to think how I manage my
time in the future, to stay connected with
loved ones with more intention.
I asked Anie if there was something about
the process that sharpened her message, or
what lessons she wanted share.
“Such a great question! For me I have
been thinking about the role of musicians
and performers in society. I was reminded
of the genuine sense of responsibility
that a performer has to their audience.
During a performance, the audience has
a choice to trust the performer/musician
to in some way take care of them. With
this gift of trust, the performer is given
permission to act as a sort of tour guide.
And so, we allowed music and stories to
transport us—either to escape from our
present circumstances, or go deeper into
the experience we are in. All moving
together. The strangely unseen SQS
audience (each in their own home) gave
us their full support as we sang, giggled,
cried and muddled our way through the
blind corners of this unique time. It felt
like over these seven weeks we were all
holding hands during these shows. In an
unpredictable and sometimes troubled
world - that was a profoundly moving
experience.”

If you allow yourself to listen, there are
teachers everywhere. Mike reminding us
that small gestures are in fact the real-life
currency of community makes my heart
sing.

Anie explaining that to walk on a journey
requires trust is powerful, because for the
next while here in Fernie we are going
to be walking around a bunch of blind
corners, hoping we don’t fall.

If you are still lost, Anie asks us all to move in the direction of unity, or as Bruce Cockburn says, “Open your heart, and grow with what life sends.”