London, ON is set to host Canada’s biggest night in music.
As the late Gord Downie would say, the event is “a long time coming” for the Forest City.
Christopher Campbell, the chair of the 2019 Juno host committee, has fond memories of live music in London during what he called his “bar era.” He fondly looked back on attending shows at places like Call The Office and the Brunswick Hotel to see bands and befriend the bar owners, all while staying out until last call.
“You can attribute memories or experiences,” he said of live music. “There’s a song that would bring you back to that place, good or bad, and invoke emotion, unlike anything comparable.”
Listening to Campbell wax nostalgic about live music made it clear why he initiated London’s host city bid for the 2019 Juno Awards back in 2016.
Selling the case: how London became the Junos host city
There are many factors to consider before picking the host city for the Junos. There must be a social and cultural case and a business case presented. Naturally, the Junos should be in a city dedicated to music. As a result, businesses related to music, the private and public sectors, and music venues must have a strong relationship with each other.
For the social and cultural case, the city must focus on current affairs that are nationally relevant. Campbell added that the city is focusing on women in music, London’s technology sector, and Indigenous relations.
London’s mid-sized market was also part of the social and cultural case. It’s rare for cities of that size to host something like the Junos.
Campbell said it’s usually what he calls “NHL cities” like Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto who host such events.
However, people in the industry look on the last time, another mid-sized market, St. John’s Newfoundland, hosted the Junos with great memories.
Before musicians perform in stadiums, they play in bars, basements, and mid-sized music venues. Hosting the Junos in London will emphasize the importance of mid-sized music venues.
“If you could bring it down to showcase mid-sized music venues,” he said. “That is where the heart of the music business is.”
As London gears up for Juno Week, events are popping up honouring London’s music community of the past and present.
Learning about London’s rich music history and community
The London Music Hall of Fame revealed their new Rolex Room display on February 23. The exhibit features items from Juno-nominated and winning artists from London and the surrounding area. The Rosewood Room was full of people watching six-time Juno winner Larry Mercey and Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer Marie Bottrell perform.
Guests were able to take in the memorabilia, as well as learn more about all of the musicians with a connection to London who were honoured at the award ceremony.
Rena O’Halloran, the curator of the London Music Hall of Fame, learned a lot about London’s connection to the Junos while creating the exhibit, especially with classical music artists.
“The number of people who do classical music who have been nominated and won in London is just startling,” she said.
For example, Tafelmusik, a baroque orchestra and chamber choir, won 10 Junos and was nominated for 31 of those awards as a group. Some members of the group also received many nominations and wins of their own. Charlotte Nediger, who plays the harpsichord and organ for the orchestra, won nine Junos and earned 33 nominations.
Promoting London’s Music Scene after the Junos
Even after the Junos, London’s music scene isn’t going anywhere. O’Halloran hopes to see more city investment into the music industry, more opportunities to pay musicians, and more people attend live shows.
“We need to listen to live music,” she said. “That’s up to us as consumers.”
Juno Week kicks off March 10 with several events, followed by the ceremony on March 17 at Budweiser Gardens.
The London Music Hall of Fame is open every Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
The Forest City London Music Awards Week begins on April 28 with the Forest City London Music Classical World, Jazz Music Awards Gala at Aeolian Hall. The Forest City London Music Pop Music Awards Gala will take place on May 5th at the London Music Hall.