Arts & Culture

Nurses to stage ‘7 O’Clock Cheer’

By Don Fennell

Published 4:18 PST, Mon November 29, 2021

Last Updated: 10:27 PST, Mon December 20, 2021

Seven o’clock in the evening has come to have special meaning since COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

And now, borrowing on the ritual that started as a nightly salute to the often exhaustive efforts of frontline workers, two musically-gifted nurses are organizing a concert to celebrate the role health-care workers have played in carrying B.C. through the pandemic.

Richmond’s Victoria Groff, along with fellow nurse David Taylor, dreamt up the idea of The 7 O’Clock Cheer. The performance, set for 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Imperial Theatre in Vancouver, is a way to combat the negative actions of a small but vocal percentage of the population who blocked hospital entrances in protest of vaccines and public health protocols earlier this year. And proceeds from the charity concert will go towards a new dementia village in Comox.

It was back in March 2020, at the infancy of the pandemic, that Taylor answered as SOS call to help at the Lynn Valley Care Centre.

“So many people died there, despite the best efforts of some truly amazing nurses, care staff, and administrators,” said Taylor, now a clinic nurse leader in geriatric medicine. “It was the first outbreak of COVID-19 at a long-term care centre in the country. It really underscored the vulnerability that this population faces within current models of care for older adults in Canada.”

“This was David’s first exposure to COVID-19 and the plight it had on the physical, emotional and mental well-being of the residents there had a profound impact on him,” added Groff.

The more Taylor reflected on the stories he was told, about what used to happen in the care facility before the pandemic (visits from animals, group activities and musical performances), only convinced him more that he needed to do something. Initially, he determined he and his band—Colour Tongues—would play an acoustic show for the residents once the pandemic was over. And while that’s still on the agenda, the idea of a larger concert to celebrate the health-care workers who stood on the frontlines took hold and both Groff and Taylor worked in concert to find a venue, build a lineup of musicians, and decide the right cause to donate the proceeds to.

In addition to performances by Taylor and Colour Tongues, Groff and Old Soul Rebel will also be taking to the stage while local artist Donna Giraud will be doing a live painting.

“This concert is going to bring you all different types of genres and feelings! With Old Soul Rebel, you get bold, upbeat and soulful music that will blow you away,” promised Groff. “Colour Tongues is an indie rock group that combines elements of progressive rock and dreamy indie pop to create music you’ll never get enough of. I remember the day I ‘discovered’ the Colour Tongues; Wasted was a top hit on my playlist for months. Finally, my wonderful band and I are opening this concert with a little pop, a little soul, and a whole lot of good feelings; it’s going to be a memorable concert for sure.”

Groff said the decision to support the construction of a new dementia centre in Comox reflects the fact that long-term care facilities are the most vulnerable pockets of our population.

“This is not surprising in the least, as viral outbreaks of flu or gastrointestinal diseases are commonplace in these care facilities, but it was the merciless lethality of COVID-19 that forced this into the public's eye,” she said. “In the first wave of the pandemic, March to August of 2020, 80 per cent of all the deaths were in older adult care facilities. A new model to care for our older adults is needed, and the Comox dementia village is hopefully the first of many that can provide a safer and kinder model of care for our parents and our grandparents.”

It also hits close to home for Groff. The local nurse and singer-songwriter knows first-hand how hard it is to see a loved one through dementia, which she experienced with her own grandmother.

“Watching someone slowly being unable to care for themselves, or becoming increasingly angry and confused isn’t easy for the person it’s happening to,” she said. “But it is also hard for the support system surrounding them.”

Groff recounts how her grandmother would eventually not be able to remember what she had for dinner, or to identify the family member she was speaking to.

“We were so lucky to have been able to transfer her to a care home that specializes in dementia,” Groff said.

Groff, whose talents also extend to the softball diamond and soccer pitch, has always had a big heart.

“I think it’s just something that’s innately a part of me,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem right to go ‘Well, that’s life.’ And while I know life isn’t always fair, I also know that it’s not that hard to make things a little better for someone else just by caring. We live in a world that is very ‘me, me,’ when a lot of our problems can be solved if instead we thought, ‘we, we’.”

Members of the public are encouraged to write in messages to health-care workers, or to share stories, at sevenoclockcheer@gmail.com or via the contact form at https://www.sevenoclockcheer.com/. These will be displayed via projection at the event.

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