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Virtual East Coast Music Awards weekend begins with Friday afternoon wins for Wintersleep, Sampson, Baker

Nova Scotia band Wintersleep is heavily featured in the 2020 East Coast Music Awards nomination list, sharing the top spot for seven nods with Newfoundland singer-songwriter Tim Baker. Also making their mark among the nominees are Ria Mae, Neon Dreams, Rich Aucoin, Jenn Grant and Villages. - Norman Wong
Nova Scotia band Wintersleep picked up three East Coast Music Awards during the virtual version of the ECMA's Music and Industry Awards ceremony on Friday afternoon. The awards continue on Saturday night at 9 p.m. with host Mary Walsh and performers including Wintersleep, Rose Cousins, Matt Mays, Zamani and Neon Dreams, plus a tribute to the late Newfoundland legend of song, Ron Hynes. - Norman Wong

Somehow it just wasn't the same, watching a parade of the first round of 2020 East Coast Music Awards winners play out across a computer or smartphone screen on Friday afternoon, as opposed to the traditional ECMA weekend Industry and Music Awards Brunch that accompanies the splashier nighttime gala.

But since the April 29 to May 3 event in St. John's was cancelled due to COVID-19, a virtual version hosted by CBC Radio’s Bill Roach on YouTube and FaceBook would have to do, with the added bonus of allowing fans of Atlantic Canadian music everywhere the ability to see the Friday winners announced in real-time in advance of Saturday night's 9 p.m. main event, broadcast and streamed on CBC-TV and CBC Gem with host by Mary Walsh.

The strongest showing on Friday came from Nova Scotia band Wintersleep, for its seventh album In the Land Of. At the same time that most of its members have moved back to the East Coast after being based in Quebec, the group’s latest collection of well-orchestrated songs addressing personal and worldly concerns earned three awards, including group recording and rock recording of the year, plus song of the year for Beneficiary, produced by the band and its longtime collaborator, Scottish studio guru Tony Doogan.

Talented Cape Breton songwriter Dave Sampson, whose latest release All Types of Ways was produced by fellow islander and Grammy Award-winner Gordie Sampson, was a double winner at the pre-awards show. Known for collaborating with Classified, Alan Doyle and Neon Dreams as well as his own melodic storytelling, Sampson saw his work named country recording and rising star recording of the year.

Speaking of Neon Dreams, after recently enjoying its first Juno Award win as breakthrough group of the year, the duo of Frank Kadillac and Adrian Morris added another trophy to their mantles with a pop recording of the year win for Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams. 

A recent transplant to Toronto since the dissolution of his band Hey Rosetta!, Newfoundland and Labrador songwriter Tim Baker saw the work from his acclaimed solo debut Forever Overhead pick up two ECMAs on Friday, for folk recording of the year and video of the year for the joyous All Hands clip, a love letter to friends and family in St. John’s and beyond, directed by Jordan Canning.

Newfoundland’s other double win on Friday was for St. John’s musician and composer Florian Hoefner. The German-born Memorial University jazz professor earned instrumental recording and jazz recording of the year for his album First Spring.

East Coast opera star Measha Brueggergosman accepted her 2020 East Coast Music Association's Director's Special Achievement Award online on Friday with a heartfelt speech dedicated to her father, the late Rev. Sterling Gosman. - Stephen Cooke
East Coast opera star Measha Brueggergosman accepted her 2020 East Coast Music Association's Director's Special Achievement Award online on Friday with a heartfelt speech dedicated to her father, the late Rev. Sterling Gosman. - Stephen Cooke

Due to the online nature of Friday’s presentation, the only actual acceptance speeches were made by its honourary award recipients. East Coast opera star Measha Brueggergosman dedicated her Director’s Special Achievement Award to her late father, the Rev. Sterling Gosman and family members who supported her following her 2019 heart surgery, with a message of hope for those working towards positive change.

“We all of us carry within us nations, and the potential for change and the potential to spread love, joy, peace, prosperity and excellence,” said the Nova Scotia-based singer. 

“I pray that for you, and I promise you that is exactly what I’m going to continue to do; to serve with excellence and endurance, to love aggressively, to be fiercely compassionate, to be fearlessly empathetic, and to make my faith built on the unshakeable rock of Jesus.”

Presented with the Musician’s Achievement Award, Newfoundland fiddler Kelly Russell — from Figgy Duff, the Wonderful Grand Band and Kelly Russell & the Planks, to name a few of his bands — was genuinely enthusiastic about the recognition, and the comradeship he’s felt with fellow musicians over the years.

“Wow! It’s often referred to as a sideman’s award, and although I have played as a sideman in many bands, trios and duos, I’ve almost always been able to sneak in a Newfoundland fiddle tune or two into the setlist,” said Russell.

“This is an especially great honour as it is bestowed by one’s peers. Musicians, fellow music industry people, I am sincerely grateful.”

Other notable Nova Scotian ECMA wins on Friday included an April Wine rock legend with a blue recording of the year award for Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues 2, Marc Djokic’s classical recording of the year award for Solo Seven, Halifax’s Famba for dance recording of the year for Swear to God and Rich Aucoin’s electronic recording of the year award for Release.

Clare artist Jacobus, a.k.a. Jacques Alphonse Doucet from the Acadian hip-hop ensemble Radio Radio, picked up rap/hip-hop recording of the year for Caviar, genre-spanning band Spirit of the Wildfire’s Bittersweet Nothings was named LOUD recording of the year, and Canning-raised, U.K.-based performer Laura Roy won her first ECMA for R&B/soul recording of the year for Forte.

Halifax-based music management company The Syrup Factory topped the list of Friday’s ECMA Industry Awards, as company of the year, with Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival earning event of the year just before it too has to go virtual due to COVID-19 this fall.

Familiar faces on the industry awards winners list also included Jones & Co. (management/manager of the year), Daniel Ledwell (producer of the year), Sydney’s Soundpark Studios (studio of the year), New Scotland Yard’s Thomas Stajcer (studio engineer of the year). St. John’s’ legendary Ship Pub, known to devotees as simply “The Ship” was named venue of the year.

The 2020 East Coast Music Awards will continue on Saturday night with the 9 p.m. virtual gala hosted by Walsh, with an array of especially captured performances by Friday award-winners Wintersleep, Tim Baker, Neon Dreams and Jacobus, as well as Dr. Helen Creighton Lifetime Achievement honouree Shannyganock.

The lineup also includes Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous-led women’s drum group Eastern Owl, Dartmouth rocker Matt Mays, Halifax R&B songwriter Zamani, Maritimes singer-songwriter Rose Cousins and New Brunswick rock band Motherhood. 

The event will also feature a special tribute to Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee Ron Hynes featuring vocal trio Shaye, P.E.I. songwriter Lennie Gallant and Joel Hynes along with longtime band members who performed with “The Man of 1,000 Songs”.

Friday Pre-Show East Coast Music Awards

Blues Recording of the Year:
Myles Goodwyn - Myles Goodwyn and Friends of the Blues 2 

Classical Recording of the Year:
Marc Djokic - Solo Seven
 
Contemporary Roots Recording of the Year:
The East Pointers - Yours to Break

Country Recording of the Year:
Dave Sampson - All Types of Ways 
  
Dance Recording of the Year:
Famba - “Swear to God” 

Electronic Recording of the Year:
Rich Aucoin - Release

Folk Recording of the Year:
Tim Baker - Forever Overhead 
 
Group Recording of the Year:
Wintersleep - In The Land Of

Inspirational Recording of the Year:
Ian Foster and Nancy Hynes - A Week in December 

Instrumental Recording of the Year:
Florian Hoefner - First Spring
  
Jazz Recording of the Year:
Florian Hoefner - First Spring

Loud Recording of the Year:
Spirit of the Wildfire - Bittersweet Nothings 

Pop Recording of the Year:
Neon Dreams - Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams
 
Rap/Hip-Hop Recording of the Year:
Jacobus - Caviar 

R&B/Soul Recording of the Year:
Laura Roy - Forte 

Rising Star Recording of the Year:
Dave Sampson - All Types of Ways

Rock Recording of the Year:
Wintersleep - In The Land Of
 
Song of the Year:
Wintersleep - “Beneficiary” (Producers: Tony Doogan, Wintersleep)

Directors’ Special Achievement Award:  
Measha Brueggergosman

Musician’s Achievement Award: 
Kelly Russell

Friday ECMA Industry Awards

Industry Builder Award:
Tony Murray

Company of the Year:
The Syrup Factory

Event of the Year:
Celtic Colours International Festival 

Graphic/Media Artist of the Year:
Deep Hollow Print 

Management/Manager of the Year:
Jones & Co.
 
Media Outlet of the Year:
The East 

Media Person of the Year:
Bill Roach 

Producer of the Year:
Daniel Ledwell 
 
Studio of the Year:
Soundpark Studios 
 
Studio Engineer of the Year:
Thomas Stajcer
 
Venue of the Year:
The Ship Pub
 
Video of the Year:
Tim Baker - All Hands (Director: Jordan Canning) 

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