By Cassidy Nunn –
There’s a 22-year-old tradition in Brentwood Bay on Wednesday nights throughout the summer that brings the community and families together. The streets fill up with parked cars while the sidewalks teem with residents, some walking their dogs, others carrying picnic baskets and blankets or folded up chairs, as they all make their way towards Pioneer Park and an evening of Music in the Park (MIP).
This community event, which draws hundreds of people to each concert night, is 100% volunteer run and free to the public. The Brentwood Bay Community Association (BBCA) organizes this special series of concerts and one of its eight directors, Geoff Bate, took me behind the scenes to learn about all the hard work that goes into ensuring this event continues to be such a hit.
Geoff has been involved with Music in the Park for 10 years as a director and closer to 20 years as a musician. The band he’s a part of, Shaky Ground, has been playing the MIP nights for almost as long as they’ve been in existence. They’re such a hit that they get asked every year to come back and play, which Geoff makes sure I understand has nothing to do with him being involved as a volunteer since he is not in charge of selecting the musical acts. Leslie Gentile, the talent co-ordinator and fellow BBCA director, adjudicates the music line up and selects seven acts out of the dozens of applications she receives each year. The BBCA’s mandate is to try and host a wide variety of musical acts that are generally outside the mainstream and showcase many different genres of music such as roots, Celtic, R&B, soul, funk, etc.
The only time MIP is cancelled is if it’s raining torrentially, which has rarely happened over the years. The last two weeks of August are kept open in the event of a cancellation so that the concerts can potentially be rescheduled.
For years the acts would play on a temporary stage that volunteers set up in Pioneer Park’s parking lot with pieces of plywood, and then at the end of the season they’d take it all apart. Now, with the newest addition of the beautiful Brentwood Bay Performance Stage, MIP has a permanent, undercover home for the concerts. The stage was envisioned and completed by the BBCA and Geoff worked hard over two years to make this stage into a reality. “But it was great fun,” he says with a laugh after recounting the many hours and fundraising efforts he spent on seeing the project through. Geoff credits the incredible support and donations from the community for helping the project be completed on budget – a grand total of $200,000 in cash and services, everything from the architectural drawings to much of the building materials and labour, were all donated and the municipality of Central Saanich gave permission for the stage to be built as a permanent structure in Pioneer Park.
While MIP is free to the public, the BBCA relies on donations from the public, as well as corporate sponsorship, in order to pay their musical acts. “The more support for live music, the more we win,” says Geoff. You can be sure to show your support by getting your picnic basket ready, a blanket or chair, and join in on the Wednesday night MIP fun this summer at Pioneer Park from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m!
Schedule for 2019 Season: July 3, The Ecclestons, “full contact” folk with Celtic roots; July 10, Shaky Ground, five decades of classic hits; July 17, Auntie Kate & The Uncles of Funk, powerful blues, R&B, soul and funk; July 24, The Temps, modern and classic rock; July 31, The Fugitives, a folk collective with a global reputation; August 7, Matt Masters, Barney Bentall’s touring partner gets his own show; August 14, The R&B Kingpins, great R&B classics and cool originals.
Photo by Nunn Other Photography