Tunes for tough times

Community Shine On

Nova Scotian Kitchen Party Facebook group chases away the isolation blues with music, song, dance and more

What began as a small act to brighten a few people’s days has now reached out to more than 100,000 people from all over the world sharing something Atlantic Canada is known for: music.

The Ultimate Online Nova Scotia Kitchen Party rocketed to success after creator Heather Cameron Thomson came across a couple of musician friends online who brightened her day a bit. After noticing the effect it had on her, she decided to open it up and create a group to let others experience the joy — whether it be by posting or listening.

“The intention was to ask my musician friends to participate in a small group where we share music and flood our Facebook timelines with joy rather than all of the fear and negativity that is out there right now,” she said.

Members began to flood in immediately. Similar to a real-life kitchen party, as soon as people hear the music they begin to fill the space, and of course, they jump in — that’s what makes it a kitchen party after all. Along with professional musicians like Classified, The Stanfields’ frontman Jon Landry and many more familiar names around the county, there have been many brand new performers blowing away audiences with hidden talents they may not have shared until now.

Leah and Kyle Samson perform At Last on one of the videos they posted to the Kitchen Party Facebook group recently.

“It’s amazing! I think we tend to forget that kids see all and hear all. They know what’s going on in the world and feel our stress even when we think we are covering it up,” she said about the fact that all ages — from small children singing nursery rhymes to the senior population showing off their talents — are taking part.

“They get to put themselves out there, in a safe space where people are loving and supporting them. They see the positive comments, and it builds them up. All the while, having a little fun with their families. Then their friends see it, and they can connect by way of the comments and may even inspire other kids and families to do the same.”

The group quickly became much more than Cameron Thomson had intended when she began it but she is thrilled with the life it has taken on and the distance over which it has connected people.

“People are reaching out and thanking us for changing their lives. It’s a hard thing to get my head around, but I’m so thankful that this small thing has become such a source of joy for so many.”

She added that as fantastic as it is that so many people are posting videos, she is also thankful for those who tune in just to listen and hear the talents of both friends and strangers as the group would be nowhere near as large as it has grown without both parties.

Not only has it managed to promote a sense of community and happiness but the group has shared the Nova Scotian tradition and culture to the world in one of the best lights.

“In true Nova Scotia Kitchen Party style… with doors wide open… everyone is welcome to participate and enjoy, no matter where you hail from!” she said. “We are hearing not only from Maritimers, but from people who have connections to Nova Scotia, people who have visited here, who want to visit here or had plans to visit which have been delayed. We’ve even heard from some people who had no idea what a kitchen party was, and thought they were joining a cooking group,” she laughed.

Dolores Dagenais sang an original song about isolation blues in the video she posted to the Kitchen Party Facebook group.

Local musician Delores Dagenais shared her thoughts on the impact it is having. “It’s important to remember there are things other than COVID-19 going on in the world. Even though things look dark right now, art and music and laughter and friends still exist. We need to remind ourselves of that when things start to look bleak,” she said. Dagenais posted a video of herself playing guitar and singing an original song.

A familiar name in music around Pictou County, Leah Samson, one of the frontwomen for The Collective, also shared her thoughts as a musician on what the group means.

“It’s so wonderful and amazing. We have had such an appreciation for the local music scene since moving back here six years ago, it’s the joy of our life. So I’m not surprised that it has sparked such a widespread response. We had posted a video the night before the group was started as a way of cheering ourselves up, having so many upcoming gigs canceled,” she said. “Scrolling through and watching the videos is the highlight of each day, and we will continue to contribute as long as this lasts!”

Samson posted videos along with her husband Kyle and her sister Jenna who is staying with them during their self-quarantine at home.

The impact has reached so much further than adults, however, with kids also posting their talents and sharing their skills and passion for music with the community. Sherri Siddall posted a few videos recently of her son Landon Vaughan playing from home.

Nova Scotian rap artist Classified even joined in on the fun performing his hit Welcome to the Maritimes.

“I think it is a great group where everyone that has talent can share with the world. I love to play and sing and wanted to post my videos here so I could show people my talent,” Vaughan said.

Singer/songwriter/guitar player Corey Bowser of Riverton did not hesitate to jump onboard. “I’m posting videos on the group because it’s a great community of local musicians who are all sharing with each other to get through this troubling time. I personally don’t get out to play shows anymore, but now I’m in front of a large group of my peers playing for them and listening to them as well. It’s the one good thing that has come from this pandemic and I hope it stays going strong long after it’s over. It’s amazing to realize how many great musicians there are in Nova Scotia and I am so thankful to be a part of it!”

Also happy to contribute and looking forward to the ‘after party’ as it were is county favourite Shaun McLean. “The Kitchen Party for me has been the silver lining to this COVID-19 situation. It has given people something to do, whether you are a musician or a spectator. I can’t think of a more beautiful expression of solidarity and giving and sharing. I feel deeply grateful to Heather Cameron for having the foresight and instinct to know what to do and I am so proud to be a part of this endeavour,” McLean said.

“I feel like there will be a big fat concert after to celebrate and I will do whatever I can to assist in that as well.”

You can find the kitchen party here:

Landon Vaughan plays Johnny Be Good on the Kitchen Party Facebook group.