Since March 2020 Williams Lake area musicians LeRae Haynes and Evan Jensen have posted more than 230 videos of themselves performing songs together on Youtube and Facebook.
The couple said it started out as a way to keep themselves playing and enjoying music every day, but the project quickly turned to something they thought other people might find comforting and distracting as well during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the beginning it was every single day, seven days a week. Everybody was so stressed out — it was not an easy time for anybody,” Haynes recalled.
Jensen and Haynes play a broad spectrum of music — everything from old stuff written in the 1800s up to modern day music. They play gospel, a little bit of jazz from the 40s, pop tunes from the 80s and 90s, a little bit of country and folk.
Haynes also penned an original song titled Pretty Good From Here, they shared on July 10, 2020. In the tune, she talks about isolation and the importance of caring, understanding and reaching out a hand.
Sometimes they dress up for the videos, even wearing Viking beards at one point. It’s been a lot of fun and they have people tuning in from Denmark, Sweden, Hawaii, across Canada and the US.
Within a few months they were recording four songs a week. Eventally they lessened it to two, but now that COVID-19 cases are on the rise in the region, they are trying to post three songs a week, plus Haynes tries to write a humour story to post every two weeks.
When restrictions were relaxed a bit in the first few months, they invited other people to join them for the videos, even recording outside when it was very cold in the spring.
“People had blue lips and fingers and were playing in the wind,” Haynes said, chuckling. “We did a few bigger things outside so people could stay safe and comfortable and into the early fall we had small groups of four people, but now it’s down to Evan and me again.”
“It’s been a comfort, joy and sheer delight to play music with Evan in our home,” Haynes added.
“All my musician friends are very sad and bereft and we all miss performing. If you’ve got someone in your house that you can not only play music and sing with, but somebody you mesh really well with, wow — we cross leads and harmonies all the time in our vocals. I play several instruments and Evan’s a really good bass and guitar player so we have lots of variety that way. It’s wonderful.”
Haynes has called Williams Lake home since 2001 when she moved from Bella Coola. She first crossed paths at a musical event in Walhachin in early 2017 where Haynes was scheduled to play music with Rosetta Paxton and Jensen was the MC.
It wasn’t necessarily love at first note, but there was some ‘cordial interest,’ Haynes said of when they met.
While the city of Williams Lake was on evacuation order, the two touched base electronically. Jensen visited the lakecity the fall after the wildfires and made the move soon afterwards.
“From there it was love at first chord,” he suggested.
When he’s not making music, Jensen works doing renovations. LeRae has been teaching a few music lessons online over Facebook messenger during the pandemic but said it’s a challenge and in her words, a ‘terrible,’ venue for teaching music. “You cannot play at the same time and the delays make it so choppy that it is confusing for people,” she said,
She also delivers 300-plus newspapers every Thursday for the Williams Lake Tribune, something she decided to do after seeing ‘desperate’ pleas for carriers.
“I thought to myself, ‘you walk every morning anyway, why don’t you make yourself useful.’ I deliver as fast as I can, 30 pounds of paper like a big old pack-horse,” she said.
“It’s got to be good for bone density if nothing else.”