WINNIPEG -- Another music festival in Manitoba announced it will not be going ahead this summer due to the pandemic.

On Thursday, Jazz Winnipeg announced the cancellation of the 2021 TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival, which was slated to take place in June.

“The Jazz Fest experience is about gathering together as a community and celebrating music together in either large, open outdoor spaces or in smaller, intimate venues,” Jazz Winnipeg’s acting executive director Angela Heck said.

“It’s simply not possible for us to proceed at this time with a festival in June. But actually, there is room for optimism.”

For the second straight year, Jazz Fest is turning to a series of online concerts and capacity-controlled, socially-distanced outdoor events to reach audiences. Heck says the response to last year’s modified shows was really positive.

“It really did prove that we are able to innovate and find new ways of letting the music flow.”


Jazz Fest joins the growing list of cancelled summer music festivals in Manitoba because of health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Winnipeg Folk Festival and Dauphin CountryFest both recently announced they would not run this year, marking the second consecutive year the festivals have not taken place.

Winnipeg-based musicians say these announcements are devastating but necessary.

“Everybody seems to understand this is what we need to do to protect each other right now,” Daniel Jordan said. “So I’m very proud of our [music] community while, at the same time, heartbroken for it.”

Jordan, a member of folk-rock trio Red Moon Road, has played countless festival dates across the province and said those shows have had a profound impact on his career.

“It’s everything — that’s where we got our start, that’s where we learned how to do it.”

Dave Landreth, bassist in The Bros. Landreth, echoes Jordan’s sentiment. Landreth and his brother Joey grew up “shadowing” their dad at music festivals across Manitoba. Landreth says growing up as a festival spectator was “absolutely formative” for him as a musician.

“They lit the fire for me in a lot of ways,” Landreth said. “Watching these people do this thing that I love so much onstage.”

The Juno Award-winning roots rock band has played extensively throughout the world since 2013 and Landreth says club touring can be gruelling. He says it’s a big reason why they look forward to festival season.

“This is our opportunity to post up, usually for a couple days, and catch up with friends. [Festivals] are, for most of us, the highlight of our year.”

The Bros. Landreth cancelled all of their tour dates last March and after more than a year of postponements, Landreth says he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a scheduled European tour in spring 2022.

Singer Heather Thomas of indie-folk project Diaphanie says festivals are typically a huge part of her summer.

“Normally, it’s tough to fit them all in,” Thomas said. “So, it’s been a pretty big loss, not only for my career, but also, you know, for my social life.

Thomas last played Jazz Fest in 2018 with her previous band ATLAAS. The singer says she’s worried about the future of music festivals who have endured two years of cancelled events.

“How are they going to survive without the normal revenues that come in? It’s kind of scary to think we may be entering a new phase where there’s a lot fewer places to perform.”

Jazz Winnipeg’s Angela Heck says they’ve enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from sponsors, donors, and community support over the past year.

“The organization’s in a really good position to weather the storm,” Heck said.

Heck says Jazz Winnipeg is exploring ways to re-engage with the community and offer a lot more experiences for their audiences and performers alike.

“This whole experience of going through this pandemic has shown us that art remains essential to our well-being — and that’s the role of music,” Heck said. “Art does seem to find a way and that’s really encouraging.”

Jazz Winnipeg says they’ll unveil their 2021 programming at a later date.