Whoop & Hollar’s new virtual concert series begins Saturday with a featured performance by Scott Nolan. SUBMITTED

Live music venues remain shuttered, stages are dark and eerily silent — musicians and fans alike are starving for musical affection in this pandemic ordered blackout, but a local festival will be playing virtual matchmaker this Saturday night as it launches its “Spirit of Manitoba” Winter Concert Series & Open Mic Night.

Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival is giving Manitobans the opportunity to enjoy a series of free virtual concerts at its first-ever “Spirit of Manitoba” winter concert series and open mic night.

Whoop & Hollar was a recent grant recipient of the Safe at Home Manitoba Program and kicks off Saturday with Winnipeg’s Scott Nolan.

Nolan, a Winnipeg singer-songwriter, poet, and multi-instrumentalist, will be entertaining audiences with a 60-minute live-streamed concert Saturday evening between 7 – 8 p.m.

With seven full-length recordings, multiple Western Canadian Music Award nominations and countless tours, “Bad Liver/Broken Heart” – a track from Nolan’s record, Receiver/Reflector – won second prize in the International Song Writing Competition in the Americana category.

Alt-country, Americana, Canadiana, blues, roots, and folk are among the genres music lovers can look forward to during Nolan’s set, which will be sure to incorporate some of his signature poetry and storytelling. his songs have even been recorded by renowned musicians like Hayes Carll, Mary Gauthier, and Watermelon Slim.

Following the concert, viewers can either watch or participate in a two hour virtual open mic night between 8 – 10 p.m.—the most interactive part of the evening. A medley of emerging and established artists who register earlier in the day are invited to perform a short set of music, comedy, poetry, literature, or drama. Spots are limited and fill up on a first-come, first-served basis.

Festival artistic director Josh Wright is spearheading the event and outlines what participants can expect over the coming months.

“There will be six virtual shows held on Saturday evenings between mid-January and late March. Each event will consist of a living room-style concert featuring a Manitoban musical artist, followed by an interactive open mic.”

Whoop & Hollar’s virtual concert and open mic series proposal was selected alongside entries submitted by Folklorama and Festival du Voyageur, as well as dozens of other passionate organizations and community groups across the province.

Locally, Prairie Fusion Arts & Entertainment also received a grant for programming. Details are forthcoming on how the group will invest its grants in arts programming and music.

“Since Manitobans are still unable to safely come together to throw live concerts, open mics and festivals for the foreseeable future, we felt it was time to come up with the next best alternative that will hopefully bring some joy and inspiration to both the creators and consumers of our local music scene,” said Wright.

Partial lineup released

Other Manitoban artists on the “Spirit of Manitoba” winter concert series lineup so far include The Young Pixels on Jan. 30, Two Crows for Comfort on Feb. 13, and Twintwa + Forest Her Dress on March 27.

The Spirit of Manitoba Winter Concert Series & Open Mic Night runs January 16 and 30, February 13 and 27 and March 13 and 27 from 7 – 10 p.m. Each event is free to attend and will be live-streamed on the Whoop & Hollar Folk Festival Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Event details and open mic registration can be found at www.whoopandhollar.com/events. No software download is needed to participate.