Topaz at the Parksville Museum courtyard gazebo during a September 2020 performance. (Submitted photo)

Topaz at the Parksville Museum courtyard gazebo during a September 2020 performance. (Submitted photo)

Parksville ‘gazebo’ band eager to return to the stage

A summer of outdoor shows amid COVID restrictions

So you want to start a band during a pandemic?

In mid-2019, guitarist Jerry Schneider and vocalist Gina Allan got together to ponder an upcoming event – Allan’s mother’s 90th birthday celebration. Knowing a handful of members in the Parksville Qualicum Beach music scene, two more musicians were invited to play with them.

By chance, during a casual chat a week before the gig, drummer Allan Clark surfaced. Clark quickly acquired a drum set, having sold his last set a few years prior, and agreed to join the group.

They initially planned to only play a few tunes at the birthday celebration for roughly 15 minutes, but as it turned out, ended up playing together for three hours. In that first performance, that was it, they had a band.

During the next few months, several tunes were developed and a few of the members changed.

Shortly after, the band, then known as Topaz Jazz, had appeared on stage at the now closed Ground Zero Acoustic Lounge in Parksville. With the temporary departure of ‘Billy D’ on bass, the band welcomed Dean Williams to fill in. Over the winter, the group matured and when ‘Billy D’ returned, things really started to gel.

READ MORE: ‘You’re sitting here looking at history’: Parksville Museum opens June 20

Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic came on and any further thoughts of live performances were dashed. After several months of inactivity, practices resumed over the spring of 2020 when complete ‘shutdowns’ were relaxed. They played their first of many outdoor events at both the Parksville Beach gazebo and the newly constructed Parksville Museum courtyard gazebo. Those ‘mini concerts’ offered the band exposure and provided a bit of entertainment to an appreciative crowd.

Unfortunately, as businesses struggled with limited patrons, the band was hard-pressed to entertain for a fee and so opted to perform mainly on a tip basis.

A few outdoor performances were held in cul-de-sacs, as were weekly practices in Clark’s driveway, where a few passersby sometimes brought a chair and a glass of wine.

As COVID restrictions have started to lift, the band has returned indoors, playing at the Pacific Brimm Cafe and Catering in Parksville and the Rocking Horse Pub in Nanoose Bay.

The band’s style various with tunes from the 1930s, to more contemporary hits, to blues, to country, light rock, Latin, and generally toe-tapping, finger-snapping cheerful songs from the great American songbook.

Now named ‘Topazz’, they look forward to playing throughout the community again.

Do you recall when they played for tips? Here’s a tip from the group – never start a band in a global pandemic.

– NEWS Staff, submitted

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