virtual, Osoyoos, BC
The topic of the performing arts community transitioning into a virtual stage has been a point of discussion since the cusp of the pandemic. Plays, concerts, operas, any kind of live show have now taken their seat within the sea of little squares in Zoom.
And while there’s an obvious void for avid concert-goers, performing artists have been induced to take on the task of versing themselves through a new medium.
The Osoyoos & District Arts Council, adding to this virtual stage, is putting together a show on Saturday, May 15 featuring the music of Kym Gouchie, an artist from the Lheidli T’enneh Nation, also known as Prince George.
Gouchie describes her own style as music that speaks to the heart. They often involve hard subjects, like Indigenous women’s issues and reconciliation. Yet she explains that she uses her music as a vehicle to share these subjects which may be difficult to talk about. It’s a mix of folk roots with elements of Indigenous traditional music.
In her experience as a performing artist, she’s been an anomaly in that work is abundant for her. In fact, she’s even had to turn things down because her plate is overflowing.
“I’m one of these very blessed people that haven’t had really any issues with finding work. And I think it’s got a lot to do with the circles that I keep and just being diversified as an artist and having a lot of skills,” explains Gouchie who plays a traditional hand drum, acoustic guitar and sings.
While she is thankful that the virtual platform has been able to connect her to so many people and places while never having to leave her home, it’s come with its new challenges.
“It’s definitely been a huge curve for me. And I’m not nervous for the performance piece. What makes me nervous is the audio,” said Gouchie.
The pivot from live to virtual performances, Gouchie says, has made her hyper aware of the technical aspects of her shows simply because of the inevitable glitches that are bound to happen. People can be forgiving of poor video quality, but if there’s poor audio quality, people just don’t listen to that, she says.
Even after setting everything up, double checking connections and doing sound checks, a slight change or a shift in the room could change the audio input.
The traditional hand drum, for one, has a very unique sound. The drum produces very deep notes that resonate but Gouchie explains that “Zoom does not have an interface or any kind of ability to mix the audio so that it comes through at equal levels.”
“It’s a vulnerable thing to do to put yourself out there in that way. Because if that’s the first time somebody is hearing you, it’s an impression that you’re making, and I’m not sure that everyone is as forgiving with the audio side of things.”
Earl Krushelnicki, director at the Osoyoos & District Arts Council, says that the abundance of virtual performances these days makes it that much harder to draw in an audience. Even when the show is free.
“I’ve talked to performers and they said, early on, because a lot of performers are doing [virtual shows] from home trying to get their fans to give them some money to help them out. He said early on it was very well supported, but it’s dwindled,” said Krushelnicki.
The council currently trying their best to engage the local communities. The last show was in February by Mad Jazz for Valentine’s day. This upcoming show with Gouchie may be the last virtual one they put on.
Gouchie says that people need to be mindful of artists that have been shifting into this virtual space. Just as the experience of the audience changes with virtual shows, the experience for performers has altered just as much.
“I get a lot from the audience that helps to keep my energy up while I’m performing, and this way we are looking into the lens of a webcam—it’s not even a lens, it’s a spot. And we’re trying to engage, give that personal eye contact and use the space and it is hard,” says Gouchie.
“It is the most challenging thing I think to do. But somehow, as an artist, you just figure it out and you do it over and over and over again and pretty soon I’m finding it easier. I’m still not a fan of it. But I’ve made friends with it and it’s better than not performing.”
The show is free for those with a Osoyoos and District Arts Council membership. Others can email email@example.com for tickets.