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OPINION: Joan Spalding’s concert a day keeps the doctor away

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Joan Spalding will strap her guitar on this Saturday and press “record” on her phone — just as she does every afternoon from her Plympton-Wyoming home.

But this time, it’ll be a bit more special — it’s her 365th straight show.

That’s right, the local singer-songwriter has been streaming a daily concert to fans, friends and family online for an entire year, and hasn’t missed a single day.

“I didn’t know how long I’d last,” she tells me over the phone, recalling her decision to start streaming concerts from her music room last March. The pandemic was just then shuttered her usual concert venues, fairs and legion halls where faithful fans have gathered over the decades to hear her classic tunes.

“People would tell me how much my music helped them, so I guess I didn’t want to let them down at all.

“It was in my heart to do it.”

Viewers have been logging on every afternoon, including here at the Jeffrey farm, where ‘Joan Time’ has become a welcome tradition — the kids singing along to songs they’ve gotten to know, bringing the speaker along for our walks in the bush, so we don’t miss out.

Turns out, they’re repeating a bit of family history.

Joan and my dad are first cousins; her mother and my Grandpa came from a musical family, growing up picking and fiddling at the Mooretown family homestead.

So it was a real treat when, on her 183rd day back in September, she streamed her show live on location from my parents’ home — outdoors and socially distanced of course.

It marked six-months since she started, and brought back a flood of memories for my dad and his siblings, whose fond memories of growing up include gathering with family to listen to Joan’s music.

“It’s just unbelievable what this has developed into,” said Spalding, who has live-streamed her show from Wilkesport’s Greenhill Gardens, Petrolia’s Bridgeview Park, and the Moore Museum.

She’s received ‘a few dollars’ and thank you notes in the mail, and though some suggested she set up a donation page, Spalding said she couldn’t be bothered — “it makes it tough when you don’t know how to set stuff up.”

“People don’t have a lot of money, either. With the lockdown, no one can open up and make any money. All I can do is keep singing and keep going.”

The Rotary Club of Sarnia recently named her to its highest honour, the Paul Harris Fellowship Award. Mayor Lonny Napper also presented a plaque of appreciation on behalf of Plympton-Wyoming.

But no amount of money or accolades compares to how viewers make her feel.

Each video is flooded with comments, sometimes in the hundreds, and she sits down at night to reply to each one.

Many say her show gives them something to look forward to every day — it sure does in our house.

One viewer told her, “You take me to the moon and back.”

Others say she has literally saved their lives.

According to the Canadian non-profit Music Heals, music can act as a form of medicine, which helps to process emotions, trauma and grief. It can also act as a calming agent for stress and anxiety — particularly during these trying times.

There’s no doubt Joan’s small act of kindness has gone a long way these past 12 months.

And she’s not ready to stop quite yet, either.

“Maybe I’ll do a show every Friday or something like that,” she said.

“I’m just going to keep singing my heart out.”


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