Toronto-area jazz festivals go virtual for 2020 editions

Several of the Toronto area’s annual jazz festivals are going virtual this year in order to continue to bring music and workshops to fans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Beaches International Jazz Festival, the Kensington Market Jazz Festival and the TD Markham Jazz Festival have all announced plans to proceed with a curated lineup of online performances after being forced to cancel their original plans.

The virtual edition of the Beaches International Jazz Festival is set to take place July 17-26, bringing “musicians and fans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic together for an innovative virtual live music experience to help sustain and connect the local/global music community during this trying and unprecedented time,” organizers said in a statement.

The online edition of the festival will feature free virtual performances, workshops, master classes and interactive Q&A sessions. It’s being run in support of front-line workers at Michael Garron Hospital, part of the Toronto East Health Network.

“While we may not be celebrating and enjoying the Festival together physically, we will still be brought together by the power of music,” organizers said.

The festival has revealed a tentative schedule, but performers and details have yet to be announced.

Later in the year, the fifth edition of the Kensington Market Jazz Festival is set to take place virtually Oct. 3-4. The first major lineup announcements are expected in early July.

“Your continued support of and excitement for KMJF each year is so deeply appreciated and contributes largely to our desire to adjust our format so that we can continue to present live musical excellence while ensuring the safety of our artists, crew and audience members,” the festival’s founder Molly Johnson said in a statement. “KMJF remains an invitation-only festival and while we will be considerably smaller this year, with the generous support of our partners, we are looking forward to presenting an exciting and virtual weekend of music this fall.”

The TD Markham Jazz Festival, meanwhile, has cancelled its initial plans for the weekend of Aug. 14-16, but will instead host a concert series that will include both live and online performances between September and March. The schedule will be announced in mid to late July.

“We recognize that jazz in all its genres brings joy to listeners — and never was this more important than now, during this pandemic environment, where we cannot gather [en masse] to celebrate all that music has to offer,” organizers said.

Among the city’s other large-scale gatherings affected by the COVID-19 pandemic is the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, which is currently in the midst of rescheduling some of its concerts that it was forced to postpone. So far, the festival has managed to find a new date for one of its headliners, Smokey Robinson.

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