When Jeff Stevenson starts performing in his backyard on the Gorge Waterway on a Thursday evening, a handful of neighbours are there to watch. Within 30 minutes, dozens of people – in kayaks, on paddleboards and even across the river – appear to tune in.
Stevenson, a career musician and six-year Victoria resident, started performing in his yard a few weeks into the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a microphone and sound system, his music can be heard from kilometres away and has gained something of a following.
“I had no work, I wanted to support the health care workers and also I wanted to really unite the neighbourhood with the live music,” he said. “I thought, ‘why not play in the back garden?’ I had a vision of people turning up in boats, which they are doing.”
Enjoying Jeff’s free nightly concert in his backyard the Gorge Waterway! #yyj A few neighbours have come by with wine or beer to watch the physically distanced show, and folks are even tuning in from across the Gorge. pic.twitter.com/5jxm0ZjLnq
— Nina Grossman (@NinaGrossman) May 15, 2020
Crooning Cyndi Lauper, Tracy Chapman, the Eagles and more, Stevenson’s hearty vocals carry across the Gorge as the sun sets on the neighbourhood.
“Lots of people have been listening,” he said. “We’ve had up to 45 people outside in boats and sat down at once. One lady told me she listens to me while she walks her dog at night across the river.”
Stevenson’s heard from neighbours that many listen from their own properties.
“They sit on their balconies and they listen, or in their gardens. I don’t see them but they’re all out down the street along the river, they all come out.”
Originally from England, Stevenson has written and produced original music, starred in and written musicals and worked as a songwriter for BBC Children’s Television. He’s played with the band Joe Banana and His Bunch and toured with a number of artists but for the past few decades Stevenson’s music career has been a solo endeavor.
Before the pandemic, he played regular gigs for private events, parties, bars and care homes. He also plays at the North Saanich Yacht Club.
When the pandemic started and his gigs were cancelled, Stevenson suddenly had nowhere to play. At the beginning he played outside every night, but now Stevenson’s music can only be heard on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. He says he will continue with the concerts until the end of the pandemic.
One of his original songs The Space Between Us – ironically written long before COVID-19 – has become something of an anthem.
In his Yorkshire accent, Stevenson sings the chorus: “Distance is nothing but the space between us.”
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.