No fireworks doesn’t mean no fun on Canada Day in Toronto.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on large crowds — typically Mel Lastman Square draws up to 30,000 people on July 1 — the city’s getting patriotic online this year with three segments of streamed programming on a specially designated YouTube channel. (To be revealed early Wednesday morning at toronto.ca/canadaday.)
Among the many cool things to look forward to are some of the first streamed performances from the recently restored iconic Toronto club, El Mocambo, including during the evening segment from 7-8 p.m on July 1.
“We’re thrilled about that,” explained Robert Kerr, supervisor of special events for the city of Toronto. “The ElMo, obviously, has a huge, huge history in this city as far as the music scene, in the country really, so to be able to feature that as part of what we’re doing is really exciting. So it will be a combination of both taped and live performances.”
On the live front, Toronto indie band July Talk will perform with James Baley and Kyla Charter while Choir! Choir! Choir! will lead a virtual singalong of Neil Young’s Lotta Love, the Sun was told before Monday’s announcement.
“I think it’s perfect for the time,” said Kerr of the Young song choice. “The lyrics will be available through our website and on the Choir! Choir! Choir! site so people can learn the song in advance. It’s a cool challenge for them to do it virtually.”
Also during that evening segment, Brampton rapper Haviah Mighty will deliver a pre-taped performance from the El Mo and Gordon Lightfoot will perform a pre-taped song from his backyard.
“You know, Gordon, understandably, he’s well over 70, so he didn’t want to leave his home and come down to the venue so our camera crew went there and filmed him,” said Kerr. “You’ll love it.”
The day will start off with a morning livestream from 9-10 a.m. with Mayor John Tory having a socially distanced breakfast with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment executive chef Chris Zielinski.
There will also be a special 40th anniversary rendition of O Canada and family-friendly performances by Jully Black (taped at the ElMo), and Kim Mitchell (also the ElMo), among others.
“We definitely want to bring Toronto together around our great culture and our great neighbourhoods and community,” said Kerr. “Fortunately, the government of Canada through Canadian Heritage continued to make funding available to cities across the country to do a virtual event. To create an experience that people can share on Canada Day because it’s such a big day for Canadians.”
In the afternoon segment, between 2-5 p.m., there will be no fewer than 35 performances from artists from across the city including Kardinal Offishall (taped at the ElMo), Fred Penner, and drag stars Fay Slift and Fluffy Soufflé.
There is no broadcast partner for the entire streamed online segments but Kerr said broadcasters are able to drop into the programming whenever they like to show it on TV.
And let’s not forget the 15-minute light show from Toronto’s CN Tower that will take place at 10 p.m. and be simulcast on CP24 and CHUM-FM.
“There’s these big light cannons and really cool, pretty major effects,” said Kerr. “And that way, people who don’t have line of sight on the tower, they can see it on TV that way. And you can turn on CHUM-FM and hear the soundtrack.”