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Local musicians set to star in virtual Roots North Music Festival

Event will be shown on Rogers stations Friday; 'I miss our live music community and I hope that this will bring people a little bit of joy,' says Orillia musician

Well folks, we are nearing the end of April, and what does that mean? It means Roots North Music Festival is on this Friday!

But wait, we are in a lockdown. Never fear, the hardworking volunteers at Roots North have us covered…they have gone virtual, and this Friday at 8 p.m. will be the first ever Roots North Virtual Music Festival.

“We had a feeling well before December that the (in person) festival would be cancelled, so the Roots North Music Festival board brainstormed ideas that would be best for our artists, our audience, our community, and for the group," explained Roots North board member Amy Mangan. 

"We were constantly reminding ourselves that executing an event in any capacity would be difficult, especially with the added stress of how COVID-19 has changed every detail of our daily lives," said Mangan.

“In just under 10 years, our festival has grown leaps and bounds so we were always ready to tackle new ideas on how to expand. There's a learning curve with every new idea but for any good event organization, a learning curve is just another day.”

The board lucked out and were able to take advantage of a small window of time when limited indoor gatherings were allowed, and St. Paul’s Centre, the traditional downtown home of Roots North’s mainstage, was open.

“We set up sound with Mark Webster, our mainstage technical director; and video with our photography director Tyler Knight, in the St. Paul's auditorium for a one-day shoot," she said.

“On the film date, we had gorgeous weather; you can see through St. Paul's stained-glass windows in the video. In between acts we had doors and windows open, fans running so that we could keep air circulating," said Mangan. 

"The artists brought their own microphones and we stuck to an isolated schedule for each performance. There were no spectators, literally a handful of essential crew, and everyone wore masks, socially distanced and pre-screened.”

Musicians performing at this year’s Roots North are all local, and Mangan explains how they were picked.

“Fellow Artistic Director Sarah Duffy and I wanted everyone to be local for a number of reasons. It was important to the entire festival board that all the money spent on the production stayed local for artists and crew," she said. 

"We have always waved the ‘support local’ banner and we feel it's more vital now, more than ever. We also wanted artists who have had a history with the festival and were familiar with our Roots North fans. We are very excited to show everyone the incredible performances of this year's featured artists; they did an outstanding job!”

Featured artists this Friday night include Alex Andrews and Marta Solek, Craig Mainprize, Darrin Davis and Amy Jefferies, Sam Johnston, Sean Patrick, and Zachary Lucky.

“The Roots North Festival is a perfect fit for Orillia, and it’s so cool to see the city highlighted in this way," said classical violist Alex Andrews. "I’ve been blown away as an audience member, and I feel so fortunate to be a part of a festival with such high-calibre musicians.

“It’s also always a joy to be on stage at St. Paul’s. As someone with a classical music background who came up in Orillia, it’s a privilege to be able to share music that’s close to my heart. Roots North reminds me why I play in the first place, and how lucky I am to be from this musical community.”

Roots musician Sam Johnston agrees.

“If anything will give you a downtown Orillia feeling, it’s Roots North Music Festival, so I’m extremely happy that they’re doing this. I miss our live music community and I hope that this will bring people a little bit of joy," said Johnston.

"For my set I played all originals from the EP I released last summer, Sad to Say. I haven’t gotten much of a chance to play them live so this was a perfect chance. I’m so grateful they included me in this year’s lineup alongside so many other talented locals."

Mangan sums up the day of recording and the festival this way: “Getting the chance to see live music performed in that empty auditorium was truly amazing. Everyone who was there that day said they felt a sense of relief and excitement and even hope. It had been so long since we all had heard and seen live music, it was nothing short of delightful to watch.

“We were reminded greatly of how important it is for a community to gather and share in an experience like that. We should have left that shoot day exhausted and stressed, but it was quite the opposite: we all felt surprisingly energized. It's not lost on us, the power of music, but it's also good to be reminded,” said Mangan.

You can enjoy the 2021 Roots North Music Festival, virtually and free, on Rogers TV in Simcoe County stations, and on the Roots North Music Festival YouTube and Facebook, at 8 p.m. on Friday April 23. To find the links go to

Creative Nomad Studios continues with its pivoting, presenting free online classes for different ages which are available anytime through their Abt2cre8 line. There is a new class for kids April 28, and there are art kits available to purchase, for each class. For more information and to register, click here.

The Orillia Public Library is also continuing with its virtual programming, including a Seeds 101 workshop April 21 at 7 p.m., a night with local historian Dave Town, their surprise bags of books, and lots more. Go here to to see and register.

Have a great week, happy Earth Day, and please stay safe. If you have arts news, send it to by Tuesday at noon to be included.