Strong will and hard work keeping live music viable locally

Splendid physically-distanced concert scene at Stone Crop Acres. (The Leader/Comfort photos)
This is the year when everything’s different. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our day-to-day routines and challenged us to find new and different ways to find enjoyment. While traditional summer vacations may not be an option this year, this is a great opportunity for people to find ways to get that vacation experience close to home. Out of that new necessity is born The Leader’s new Day Tripper series of features highlighting local and area day trip options. Through this series we are attending regional destinations to see for ourselves how tourism operators are adapting to new ways of doing business while ensuring visitor safety. Phillip Blancher’s visit to Upper Canada Village, and the positive feedback received from it, inspired the series which continues this week with a Harmony Concert at Stone Crop Acres Winery and Vineyard which is located just north of Morrisburg off of County Road 31 on Smiths Road.

MORRISBURG – After months of staying home and social and physical distancing people everywhere are craving a bit of fun and entertainment and Stone Crop Acres Winery and Harmony Concerts have worked really hard to find a way to offer just that while having measures in place to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all involved.

Whether it’s a date night or a night out with the people in your social bubble, a Harmony Concert at Stone Crop will not disappoint.

Last weekend two Harmony Concert series shows were held at Stone Crop Acres Winery and Vineyard and Jan Fox of Harmony and Noreen Hyatt-Gervais of Stone Crop Acres took a moment to talk about how they are making this happen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

By limiting audiences to a maximum of 100 people and spreading out social circles of guests across the large wide-open grounds of the winery, Fox and Hyatt-Gervais have successfully created a safe, relaxing environment for concert-goers and the entertainers themselves to fully enjoy the show.

Jan Fox of Harmony Concerts (with winery dog Jeannie) and Noreen Hyatt-Gervais of Stone Crop Acres Winery and Vineyard talked about how they are able to offer live music locally and the measures they have put in place to make it happen.

Calling the social groups pods, Fox explained that those are 10 feet apart and that wearing a mask is mandatory when folks move about the grounds, but not when they are seated within their social bubble. “We’ve spent a lot of time on ensuring proper distancing between these pods,” said Fox.

All tickets must be purchased online – Fox explained that this is a necessary part of the process as it gives her the opportunity to make contact with people via email and to ensure that everyone receives all the COVID protocols in their entirety.

Seeing and hearing about all the extra work involved with hosting a concert the obvious question – Is it worth it?

“From the Harmony Concerts perspective it’s worth it because it’s important to keep the ball rolling, to keep the name out there and to keep presenting high-end artists – regardless,” said Fox.

This is only Harmony’s second year of presenting shows at Stone Crop and they don’t want to lose any of the momentum they gained over these first years.

She acknowledges that it might mean losses rather than profits but is adamant that the shows must go on.

“People are starved for live music and I believe we’ve created a very safe environment for it here,” said Fox.

Featured Saturday night were (l-r) Lynne Hanson and Blair Michael Hogan playing for the first time to a live audience in four months. Friday night’s Paper Moon concert featured musicians Peter Woods, John Greggie and Roddy Ellias.

Hyatt-Gervais said that as the host venue the benefit for them is in selling their wine. “This keeps our brand going and keeps people coming here,” said Hyatt-Gervais.

Only their fourth year in business, Hyatt-Gervais still considers Stone Crop Acres a new business and understands the importance it has as part of the larger local tourism scene.

A vital part of South Dundas’ economy, tourism accounts for 22 per cent of all employment in the municipality.

“This is tourism. We want to keep people coming here and giving them something to do,” said Hyatt-Gervais.

Another partner in the overall experience being offered to guests is Simply Baked Catering, taking orders and delivering Tapas for Two to Stone Crop Acres for the shows. Offering unique, creative and delectable delights, it adds to the overall treat of the night out experience that so many have been longing for.

Having hosted almost 200 visitors over two shows last weekend, Hyatt-Gervais reported that the response and feedback they are getting from those attending is clear: “It’s been fabulous!”

“People are so well-behaved and so respectful,” she said. “They’re just so thankful to be out and they’re just enthusiastic about it.”

“It’s like the guests don’t want to screw this up,” added Fox. “No one wants to ruin this for anyone.”

“The feedback has just been amazing,” said Fox.

During Saturday night’s concert featuring Lynne Hanson with Blair Michaell Hogan, there was a poignant moment when Hanson talked about how this Harmony Concert show at Stone Crop Acres will have special meaning to her for a very long time.

Having had 70 shows cancelled due to the pandemic, Hanson said at Saturday night’s show: “This is the first time I’ve played in front of a live audience in four months. Getting ready for this show, I felt like I had my job back. This night I’m going to remember for a long time because it gave me back something really important. I’m glad you’re here.”

Saying this before playing her song called Heaven and Hell, she said: “This night has just been heaven.”

Since you’re here…

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