There was too much musical and emotional content on display at Beverly Kreller’s first-ever not-for-profit Speak Music Be Kind Festival last month to adequately describe the magnitude of the vibe. How did Toronto’s first music festival of 2020 combine the perfect storm ingredients of a sizable audience, a comfortable and accessible venue, the Tranzac, and a captivating flow of lustrous musical talent to manifest a concept - kindness – so intrinsically simple that it has failed to be made obvious until now?
Jazzomometers were overloaded during late sets by cobalt-jacketed scat champ Ori Dagan sparring with his miracle bass player Jordan O’Connor (above), the Simone Morris Trio (right), keeping the audience hanging off every note and word of her insinuating originals in a snowflake chic ensemble, and by midnight, dreamy retro queen Tia Brazda (below)
had style galore to convey her positive perspectives on the changing stages of affection and romance.
After a steady Saturday of shovelling out, the second night was back in action, with an all-day jam bubbling along, a bellowing accordion workshop and one for fiddle inside the Tranzac’s cozy, parlour-style Tiki Room which featured a hoedown showdown between Anne Lederman’s intricate string embroideries and Dr. Draw’s electro/techno techniques . There were also a dozen afternoon concerts by such folk faves as Annie Sumi and David Newland, amongst others. Courtesy volunteers and sandwich trays helped to develop a comfortable, indoor “snowday” atmosphere. By sunset, with the welcome news that the roads were clear and the wind-chill was minimal, a fresh buffet of sounds had been set out for us.
As far as the cultivation of kindness goes, uber-host Bev Kreller (left, with Tannis Slimmon) has some warm recollections: “A few of the performers offered to waive their fee and donate it to the Unison Benevolent Fund. Artists offered to go and fetch hot beverages for the volunteers (because it was REALLY COLD at the front door reception). And folks were creating and catching the kindness vibe throughout, with smiles and excitement for the festival event. Plenty of hugs and warmth going around. There was enormous support for the idea of kindness. Virtually every artist kindly highlighted the festival’s intention, in comments during their sets. It wasn’t corny or saccharin, it was genuine and heartfelt…some folks even shed tears.”