WICA presents a whole new way to Django

— Created September 23, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley has put on an acclaimed celebration of gypsy jazz music for 20 years and organizers were not about to let a worldwide pandemic stop this season of DjangoFest Northwest. After initially thinking they’d have to cancel, they are happy to report DjangoFest will proceed with a three-day, virtual festival starting Friday and running through Sunday.  

“When we made the decision to postpone our international festival – our 20th Anniversary festival no less! – our community, fans and artists urged us to find a way to keep the music going,” said Verna Everitt, WICA’s executive director and DjangoFest  producer.

“Gypsy jazz festivals everywhere have been cancelled,” said Deana Duncan, longtime DjangoFest producer and WICA’s artistic director. “Early on, we realized that a virtual DjangoFest NW would be a fantastic and important way to keep artists and audiences connected.

“Live streaming allows us and the music to be relevant during this time of global shuttering of live performance and travel bans,” Duncan continued, saying the ability to livestream is useful – for now. “We’re learning valuable ways to stay connected in the future, but it’s not a format that can ever replace live performance. Of that, we are certain!”

WICA recently produced its first livestreaming event and that experience is now benefiting DjangoFest Northwest, according to its Artistic Director, Simon Planting.

“We also learned that assembling the right talent is very important,” he said. “Verna and Deana produced a great event with a dream team of filmmakers and technicians. I am happy they will be working on our festival, too.”

Although there will be no in-person concerts or workshops with celebrated artists from around the world, no pop-up “djam” sessions sprouting up around the City by the Sea, the ability to hold a virtual festival this year could actually mean more exposure for Whidbey Island.

 “The festival traditionally draws thousands of visitors to our community each year,” said Everitt. “Our innovative, virtual fest will be an extraordinary opportunity to introduce first-time, international audiences to Whidbey. When the time comes, we hope they will join us in-person to experience our beautiful island and first-class hospitality.”

From 7:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 2:30 p.m., there will be livestreaming concerts from the festival stage. These performances will feature festival favorites like Troy Chapman, Duo Gadjo, Julian Smedley, Eric Vanderbilt-Mathews and Pearl Django doing 25 -minute sets of live music, according to Everitt.

There will also be recorded “home” concerts by other artists from well, everywhere.

“Our ‘From-Home’ concerts are bespoke and feature outstanding artists from around the world,” said Planting. “Fapy Lafertin, Koen de Cauter, Paulus Schäfer, and Dominique Paats rented an intimate theater in the Netherlands to film two sets; The Transatlantic Trio, comprised of Richard Smith, Rory Hoffman, and Joscho Stephan recorded in their studios in Nashville and Germany; the Bina Coquet Quartet, featuring Florian Cristea, produced a beautiful concert of traditional and original music in Brazil; and Robin Nolan is putting the finishing touches on his set in Amsterdam.”

Those interested in enjoying this virtual DjangoFest can purchase tickets for $10 on WICA’s website (wicaonline.org), then will be sent a link with information on how to watch. Recordings of the event will be available to watch until Oct. 4.

Organizers hope the low cost will encourage people to support the festival.

“The idea that “art shouldn’t be a luxury” is very important to us,” Everitt said. “We know that many of our neighbors are struggling right now and hope that the ticket price will make the festival accessible.”

 “In addition, the modest fee should encourage music lovers unfamiliar with the genre to experience this one-of-a-kind introduction to the world of gypsy jazz,” Planting added.

 “Because venues and festivals are closed world-wide, our artists have been unable to earn income,” Duncan pointed out. “Ticket sales from the festival will help support the musicians sharing their talents with us.”

Information on artists, schedules and tickets can be found at wicaonline.org or djangofest.com.