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Coronavirus shutdown inspires ways for Inverness musician and venue owner Bruce MacGregor and Highland promoter Rob Ellen to bring live music – their way – into people's lives


By Margaret Chrystall


MUSICIANS and gigs have been hard hit by the impact of coronavirus-COVID-19 – with cancellations and postponements of planned gigs and tours.

But already some alternatives mean the gig can be taken into people’s homes by streaming, giving the chance for the music-starved to tune into events – and for musicians to make some kind of income and keep attention on their music.

For musician, venue owner and entrepreneur Bruce MacGregor, early experiences of staging his own gigs in his Inverness pub MacGregor’s Bar last weekend, have proved promising.

Bruce MacGregor who has been streaming gigs from his venue MacGregors Bar in Inverness.
Bruce MacGregor who has been streaming gigs from his venue MacGregors Bar in Inverness.

He explained: “Me and Jo de Silva [Bruce’s wife and partner] were sitting in the house feeling rather depressed, wondering what we were going to do.

“Jo just said ‘We’ve got to do something.’

“We’ve already done loads of live videos from our sessions, and she came with the idea of Live At Five, streaming live music from the bar .

“So we launched it last Friday – Friday the 13th just when things were going into meltdown and over the weekend we were really busy in the bar.

“And the connections we were making – from Texas to Boston to Italy to France to Belgium.

“And people were getting in touch to say they were at home. A guy said ‘I’m sitting in Midlothian playing my accordion at home along with the tunes here’.

“And another guy up in Ullapool was saying ‘I’ve got the fiddle out playing along!’ – and it was great.

Bruce MacGregor and Anna Massie due to appear on Wednesday at the later cancelled Croy Live, will now appear streamed on Friday, March 20.
Bruce MacGregor and Anna Massie due to appear on Wednesday at the later cancelled Croy Live, will now appear streamed on Friday, March 20.

“So we will just keep building on it, even if the pub has to shut.

And we have opened it up a fair bit so last nightwe had Davy Holt in talking about Highland Malt Whisky Experience and playing some songs.

Most musicians I know, playing music is the one job they have got – and they are totally reliant on it, Bruce said

“Tonight we have Nicky Murray who leads our singer songwriter groupwork and he was coming to do a song and to chat about songwriting.

“Then on Thursday, Anna Massie – we had been going to do the Croy Live concertthe day earlier at the village hall before it was cancelled – will now do it in the pub on Friday.

“People can pay for a ticket online for a few quid and we will see how that works and try and develop it with other musicians who play in the pub as well.

“For most musicians, playing live and their music is the one job they have got – and they are totally reliant on it.

“So to have the possibility of six to eight weeks off, it’s scary.”

Veteran north Medicine Music promoter Rob Ellen has also come up with a good idea in the face of the cancellation of the March Into Pitlochry, originally planned to run on Sunday, March 29.

Rob Ellen has created the Self Isolating House Concerts, musicians due to play the March Into Pitlochry cancelled event will be streamed on Sunday, March 29. Picture: HNMedia
Rob Ellen has created the Self Isolating House Concerts, musicians due to play the March Into Pitlochry cancelled event will be streamed on Sunday, March 29. Picture: HNMedia

As Rob explained: “The independent music community is being devastated amidst the coronavirus scare, we are all suffering.

“So The Medicine Music family fold is trying the idea to take cancelled shows online for folks who are self-isolating and to try to recover some lost revenue and help maintain promoters and festivals as we do, it just might inspire other artists to do the same.”

He emphasises it is not a giveaway internet event, but a replacement gig idea that could help artists and promoters who find they suddenly have no other means of income.

Rob – experienced in setting up gigs at people’s homes through the European House Concert network and small gigs through Stageit from its earliest years from small venues or home settings – has organised his ‘Self Isolating House Concerts’ on house concert principles, ie by donation, pay what you can.

He said: “The loss of March Into Pitlochry blew out what me and The Medicine Show Radio Moose were relying on in April, with May looking like a list of more cancelled shows waiting to happen, so The Medicine Show Family Fold decided to invent Self Isolating House Concerts. By the The Moose Mobile and Medicine Music taking concerts to folks’ house via Facebook and Stageit.

“It’s an idea that may well not just help me, but could catch on and really help other stranded travelling musicians, helping them sustain themselves till this all blows over and the all-clear is sounded.”

“The Moose March Into Pitlochry is now a Self Isolated House Concert Festival,” Rob said. “We’re coming to your house online instead!”

Starting at 11.30am on Sunday, March 29 on Facebook Live, a Moose Session will be on www.medicineshowontheroad.co.uk till noon. Then they take the artists live on Facebook streams.

The 12 Noon Face Book Moose Sessions are, as always on Facebook, live and free.

Donations will be shared between artists and Medicine Music with a contribution being made to the festival and the sound crew on that day. People can make donations on the 29th: https://www.gofundme.com/f/mericanmoosemobile. Some artists might well also use Stageit.

Already for Bruce, the numbers of people tuning in – and their locations – has been very positive – and he is already planning tweaks as the events go on.

“When we are doing the concert on Friday, we are going to look at getting some different camera angles as well.

“As it turns out, one of the guys in the bar is a complete tech boffin, so it’s great to get him involved and as we found out, Nicky Murray, who leads the songwriting is really into filming stuff and taking photographs.

“So we are trying to find everybody’s extra skills!

“Over the weekend we had 13,000 people and for the Sunday Session we had 4000 people alone, who viewed it live and also with ones coming on afterwards.

“Though it’s difficult to know how long they stay, but they are from all over the world.”

Info: https://www.macgregorsbars.com/ Share news of your planned streamed music: margaret.chrystall@hnmedia.co.uk Starting at 11.30am on Sunday, March 29 on Facebook Live, a Moose Session will be on www.medicineshowontheroad.co.uk till noon. Then they take the artists live on Facebook streams.

The 12 Noon Face Book Moose Sessions are, as always on Facebook, live and free. Donations will be shared between artists and Medicine Music with a contribution being made to the festival and the sound crew on that day. People can make donations on the 29th: https://www.gofundme.com/f/mericanmoosemobile. Some artists might well also use Stageit.



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