Music, in a movie, is everything. Jaws wouldn’t be the same without that famous, duh-duh, would it? And imagine Indiana Jones escaping a horde of angry Hovitos without trumpets blaring. You can’t. Without music, it’s hard getting that only-in-the-movies atmosphere.
The people who sell Newfoundland tourism on TV are masters at using music to reel you in. (Eighty-year-old Grandmudder putting clothes out on the line while waves crash on the beach and a fiddle plays, etc., etc.) A little camera work and some soft trad playing in the background, and we’re glued to the screen.
It’s what’s so special about those summer days when street musicians get to work downtown. And why the St. John’s Busker Festival is so successful every year. Music gives anywhere a bit of charm.
In a place with as much character as downtown St. John’s, mind you, it enhances that atmosphere tenfold. Inject a bit of music, a bit of life bouncing off the storefronts and the pavement, and all of a sudden the place jumps out at you.
What if every time you were downtown it was like that, though? If every downtown shopper, every newbie to St. John’s, every weary traveller to emerge from a cruise ship or a tour bus, were surrounded by music as they walked through the city? Now that would be something special.
If downtown St. John’s wants to see more people milling about, more business activity and more people out for a drink or a meal, why not enhance the atmosphere that helps draw people there in the first place?
Street musicians in the city do a great job – when they’re out and when they’re half talented – but a few more players hitting the bricks every day could do downtown St. John’s a world of good.
So rather than have street artists come and go as they please, we should start actively putting musicians on downtown curb stops during the summer months.
This could be an extension of the City’s current performance projects, like the Music at Harbourside lunchtime concerts that run through the summer into September, and the new Bannerman Park Concert series.
St. John’s could start by sponsoring local artists or promoting busking locations, encouraging more performers, especially young musicians – our up-and-coming fiddlers, singers, and guitarists – to share their music in one of our most beautiful public spaces.
There’s no better way to promote one of the most historic parts of the city than with the music and the culture that helps put it on the map.
Downtown St. John’s will always be a special place, but it could learn a little from the movies. A little music goes a long way.