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Free concerts strike chord with musician

Dorothy Wilson


Ian MacAlpine, The Whig-Standard / Kingston's Newlands Pavilion may be hosting free concerts during the summer


Ian MacAlpine, The Whig-Standard / Kingston's Newlands Pavilion may be hosting free concerts during the summer

And who wouldn't want to spend a leisurely sunny afternoon listening to a free concert in Kingston's historic Newlands Pavilion?

If musician Bob MacKenzie has his way, not only will Kingston have a series of free concerts during the summer, the pavilion will get a maintenance fund and will also be restored to its original function as a bandstand.

MacKenzie has already lined up several well-known Canadian acts to play, but if no sponsorship is available, the concerts aren't going to happen. His goal is to raise $25,000. About 60 per cent of that would pay for the musicians and sound system, the rest would become a permanent fund for the pavilion.

The idea, he said, has benefits for everybody involved. The musicians get exposure, and make a couple of bucks. Kingston residents get free music in a beautiful outdoor setting. And the city gets some financial assistance in caring for the outdoor venue, which suffers some vandalism nearly every year.

As well, he said, it's cheap at the price.

"To pay all the musicians and the sound guy will cost just under $15,000," he said.

"The musicians are working for scale and that's low pay. For that money, we're getting something like $50,000 worth of entertainment. We also support the building. I think it's a worthwhile investment."

In return for their investment, sponsors would be recognized - through name mention in concert advertising, press releases and at shows, MacKenzie said.

Confirmed acts that have been lined up for the series include Roger Dorey, Boca Trio, The JW-Jones Blues Band from Ottawa, Poem de Terre - who performed free concerts at the pavilion during 1996 and 1997 - and Carlos Del Junco. MacKenzie said he's pleased the musicians are prepared to work for scale, but, as a musician himself, he is not prepared to ask them to work for free.

"My idea was to provide an opportunity," he said. "This is how they make their living."

Mark Fluhrer, the city's manager of parks and arenas, said that without looking at the proposal in detail, he thought the idea had merit.

"That sounds very positive," he said. "The key to success is ensuring you have a maintenance fund. It's quite commendable."

This year, the city has pledged $3,000 for repairs to the pavilion, which, standing open in Macdonald Park year-round, can be a target for vandals. Fluhrer said maintenance costs are difficult to determine, as the pavilion takes more abuse some years than others.

"It's a public facility, and we leave it open," he said. "So, we deal with it annually."

The heritage structure was built in 1896 and is one of only a few park buildings in this style. It was restored by architect Lily Inglis in 1979, with the assistance of major supporters such as the Ontario Heritage Foundation.

"It's not just a building, it's a work of art," MacKenzie said. "It's one of only a few. It's an extremely unique piece of architecture."

The Sydenham Ward/District 10 Ratepayers Association has done a lot of work in maintaining the building also, donating labour and time over the years. MacKenzie said if the fund gets rolling he would want a group such as the ratepayers association - who have a vested interest in their community - to oversee it.

MacKenzie said if he can get the funding, the series is a win-win situation.

"I'm committed to making it happen," he said. "I'll spend the time to find the money. If it's not there, I'll cancel. Simple as that."


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