The Frederic Besozzi String Quartet performs at Fitzwilliam Gate on June 22. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Sounds of Summer series brings variety of live music to Old City Quarter

Concerts will be held at Wesley Square every Friday in July at noon

For the next two months, those wandering through Nanaimo’s Old City Quarter on their Friday lunch breaks will be treated to jazz, blues, classical and multicultural music.

The Old City Quarter’s Sounds of Summer concert series is underway, and one month into the noontime performances event co-ordinator James McRae says crowds are growing. Throughout June the Fitzwilliam Gate shops and eateries had a front-row view for a string of shows.

“It’s a nice thing for anyone that wants to partake of free live music and a departure from most things that are being offered in the city,” McRae said.

Starting Friday, July 6 the concert series shifts to Wesley Square and in August the performances happen at Heritage Mews.

The Sounds of the Summer used to be held in conjunction with the Downtown Nanaimo Business Improvement Area’s lunchtime music series. It has been a regular music program for the past few years, but this summer the OCQ asked the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival Association to help round up performers.

McRae, a drummer, took up the mantle in mid May. Despite the short notice, he was able to assemble a lineup, drawing from the musical acquaintances he’s made over 15 years living in the community.

“If you stick around long enough you end up meeting a lot of them or playing music with a lot of them,” he said.

The series features all local musicians, as well as some Nanaimoites who have moved away for work or school. That includes July’s kick-off performer, saxophonist Kenton Dick. A graduate of the Wellington jazz program, Dick is currently enrolled in the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston.

McRae said bringing live music into a public space provides people some respite from their worldly concerns as they focus on the present. He added that there is a renewed need for that kind of entertainment, as music is now commonly experienced through a screen or electronic device.

“This is a live performance where you can actually see people in the moment performing at the time. It’s not a spliced up music video … it’s live,” McRae said.

“That’s, I think, what we’ve lost a little bit of in our adopting all of the technology that we’ve adopted. We’ve moved away from live music culturally and I think there are people that want to embrace live music.”

WHAT’S ON … Old City Quarter Sounds of the Summer concerts take place every Friday noon hour in Wesley Square, 335 Wesley St., in July and Heritage Mews, 321 Wesley St., in August.

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