The Fort Langley Jazz & Arts Festival kicks off Thursday, September 2, and organizers have spent the final days before kickoff putting the finishing touches on the big event.
“It’s crazy, a lot of juggling, but everything is great,” said Karen Zukas, general manager of the festival.
This year’s edition of the festival is the return to in-person performances, with outdoor and indoor stages, subject to masking and capacity requirements for indoor venues.
It’s a big improvement over 2020, when the whole show went virtual.
“We’re just thrilled to be able to host a live outdoor festival again,” Zukas said.
The performers are also delighted, Zukas noted.
For many of them, live performance opportunities have been scarce over the past year and a half of closings and venues closed.
“The artists are so excited to be performing in front of a live audience again,” Zukas said.
Together with artistic director Dave Quinn, Zukas and the organizers have assembled a large and diverse collection of jazz varieties for this comeback to the live event.
“We really want to educate people about the many genres of jazz,” Zukas said.
The 2021 edition of the festival will include everything from Dixieland jazz to big band, from fusion and swing to blues, to jazz which has been merged with everything from hip hop to spoken word to funk, independent rock, gospel and Afro-Cuban music.
“We’re looking for music that crosses the line,” Quinn said.
Quinn said that there are a lot of people who think they don’t like jazz, but maybe they’ve only heard one guy. Maybe they don’t like Dixieland, but the breadth of music at the festival will give newcomers to music the opportunity to find something to connect with.
The festival has three ways of viewing the performances.
For those looking for the headlining shows, these will take place at the Chief Sepass Theater at Langley Fine Arts School from September 2-5. All of the Chief Sepass Theater shows require tickets, and COVID restrictions mean capacity had to be cut in half.
Zukas said Friday night’s blues show was already sold out for in-person viewing, but tickets were available early in the week for other shows.
On Saturday, September 4, the free outdoor portion of the event will take place on stages in front of the Fort Langley Community Hall.
The day begins with a pancake breakfast hosted by the Fort Langley Lions Society, then the RazzMaJazz Brigade leads revelers on foot from the Fort Langley Farmers Market to the venue, where performances begin at 10 a.m.
While indoor events have mandatory masks, on outdoor stages they are optional. Zukas asks people to respect each other because not everyone is comfortable with the same level of socialization.
There is a big plus to outdoor shows.
“Dancing is allowed outside,” Zukas said.
Other shows will be broadcast live or recorded, and this includes one of the biggest additions to the show, thanks to a partnership with the Kwantlen First Nation, on whose traditional territory the festival takes place.
A streaming Indigenous jazz fusion concert at 6 p.m. Saturday will feature members of KFN, Stomi: x Shweli (Warrior Spirit) and the jazz trio Triology.
Last year, Zukas and Quinn reached out to KFN about a possible musical collaboration, and they jumped on it.
Local media personality Mark Forsythe has made a fabrication video that will be part of the concert for free streaming.
In addition to all the music, the artistic part of the festival has grown. This year, 70 local artists are represented in the “virtual art walk” on the festival’s website, a huge increase from last year. Artwork will also be on display in the foyer of the Chief Sepass Theater for each evening of live events.
A total of 22 groups participate, nine of which will perform in the outdoor shows and 13 in the indoor headlining shows.
It was all a huge effort and would not have been possible without the funders, sponsors and volunteers of the festival, Zukas noted.
Arts & EntertainmentJazzLangley