2 Ottawa music festivals plan in-person concerts this summer

Some Ottawa music presenters cautiously plan to reunite musicians with live audiences this summer as they watch vaccination numbers rise, and hope public health restrictions loosen.

Live music organizers seek safe summer venues in Ottawa, while others wait

Carissa Klopoushak, artistic director of Ottawa Chamberfest, says her main goal this summer is to reunite musicians and music lovers. (

The organizers of two Ottawa music festivals are singing tunes of cautious optimism as they plan to host live in-person concerts this summer while vaccination numbers ramp up and case numbers decline.

People behind Ottawa Chamberfest, which runs in late July, and the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival, which runs in mid-to-late August, have expressed their desire for pop-up concerts around the capital.

The third phase of Ontario's reopening plan, which could be in place as early as late July, allows for "larger indoor and outdoor gatherings". When music venues can reopen, they will be limited to a maximum of 50 patrons indoors no matter the size of the venue.

Catherine O'Grady, the jazz festival's executive producer, said it has prepared to offer 24 free pop-up concerts in locations around the city from Aug. 19-22. 

"It's been a long dry year and our audience and artists have been waiting for a very long time for this to happen," she said.

The fountain at Confederation Park in downtown Ottawa will be the setting for a number of outdoor concerts, while he festival currently plans to host indoor events with strict health protocols at the small venue, Live on Elgin, and the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage.

O'Grady said audience members and artists have expressed a desire for the festival to organize the live music events.
Ottawa Chamberfest organizers have planned a number of outdoor live performances this summer at Beechwood Cemetery. (Supplied by Ottawa Chamberfest)

'Part of our lives again'

Carissa Klopoushak, artistic director of Ottawa Chamberfest, says she has one goal this summer: reunite musicians and audiences.

"I just want to make sure that it happens ... that we make live music something that's part of our lives again," said Klopoushak.

Chamberfest organizers have planned distanced concerts in three locations:

  • Parking lot in front of the Steinway Piano Centre on Bank Street.
  • Plaza at the entrance to Saw Gallery.
  • Beechwood Cemetery.

Klopoushak said the festival also wants to branch out to new sites throughout the Beechwood Cemetery, which has been a venue in the past.

"It's a vast property with all kinds of nooks and crannies, and it's a really special place. So we hope to take full advantage of that," she said, adding the festival also plans to include. virtual performances.

Ottawa Chamberfest hopes to welcome small audiences to the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre as part of the festival. Ontario public health restrictions state the 850-seat concert hall could host a maximum of 50 people. (

Chamberfest said each night of the two-week festival it will host live streamed concerts from the Carleton Dominion-Chalmers Centre, and if safety regulations permit, audiences will be able to attend.

Safety protocols would include hand-washing stations and Plexiglas barriers.

"You can imagine in a space that large, we can be very spread out," said Klopoushak. 

At Irene's Pub in the Glebe, owner Michael Estabrooks says the music venue has booked live in-person shows for August.

"We've been inundated with messages on our Facebook and Instagram [pages]," said Estabrooks.

"We're really excited to get back to live music because the community wants it, the community is demanding it."

One-size-fits-all limit 'illogical'

Estabrooks says the pub's outdoor patio would likely host live music this summer, but he hopes they can bring concerts inside by the end of September.

Erin Benjamin, president of the Canadian Live Music Association, believes small, outdoor live music performances will resume this summer, but she expressed frustration with the impact on musicians due to the 50-patron limit for venues no matter their capacity.

"It's illogical, doesn't make any sense," said Benjamin.

"The live music sector has done everything within its power to create the kind of rigorous protocol, the development of guidance, and all kinds of guidelines for unique venues and different spaces to ensure that public safety remains the number-one priority."

Irene's Pub hopes to welcome back musicians to its indoor stage by the end of summer. (Yannick Beauvalet)


Sandra Abma


Sandra Abma is a veteran CBC arts journalist. If you have an event or idea you want to share, please do at


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