“Art washes the dust of everyday life from the soul,” quoted Culture Minister Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen on January 19, 2022, Pablo Picasso, referring in this case to the music heard in jazz and pop venues. Without their commitment to live music, not much would function in the musical life of North Rhine-Westphalia, and in the pandemic, this commitment is particularly tricky and often frustrating. The fact that the venues have had to hold out since March 2020, implement spacing and hygiene concepts, carry out vaccination and testing checks, introduce streaming technology and develop special logistics for the backstack area is very commendable. “They all kept going last year as well. That’s why I think it’s very good that the jury has decided that all those who applied will receive an award,” said Isabel Pfeiffer-Poensgen.
The Jazzschmiede (Düsseldorf) will receive a prize of 15,000 euros. 12,000 euros each will go to Klangbrücke (Aachen) and Bunker Ulmenwall (Bielefeld). Black Box im Cuba (Münster), Jazzkeller (Krefeld), domicil (Dortmund) and Loft 2nd Floor (Cologne) each receive 10,000 euros. 8,000 euros each go to Gdanska (Oberhausen), In Situ Arts Society (Bonn), Jazz Initiative (Dinslaken), Katakomben Theater (Essen), King Georg (Cologne), ZAKK (Düsseldorf) and “Ort” (Wuppertal).
Since 2009, the Ministry of Culture and Science, together with the Landesmusikrat NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia Music Council), has awarded the Venue Program Prize to small and medium-sized forums for jazz and pop music that offer musicians regular performance opportunities in the form of their live programs. This time, the expert jury consisted of Christina Lux (musician), Ulla Oster (musician), Tim Isfort (musician) and Thomas Baerens (Head of the Music Department, Ministry of Culture and Science).
Jazz musician Peter Weiss welcomed the audience as the host of the Jazzschmiede. He was pleased about the state government’s appreciation of the venue’s commitment and also thanked the Minister of Culture for the state’s Corona scholarship programs in 2020 and 2021, saying he knows many artists who have been able to “stay afloat” thanks to these programs.
Reinhard Knoll, President of the State Music Council, followed this up by pointing out the current development of infection figures and protection regulations. For the musical life of North Rhine-Westphalia, he said, another phase is dawning in which state support measures beyond those hitherto in place are urgently needed.
The Minister of Culture pointed out that, as chairwoman of the Conference of Ministers of Culture, she was currently working on more fundamental solutions for the social security of self-employed artists. However, the grants had indeed also made many valuable projects possible for which there had simply not been time before. However, she rather relies on activation. “We are all called upon, especially in the Ministry of Culture and Science, to provide the framework for artistic creation so that it can continue to be played, created and produced,” she said. She also said she did not want to turn audiences into “couch potatoes” who no longer went anywhere. That’s why all cultural venues must be kept open as long as possible, she said. Every venue is now challenged to convince audiences through their arrangements that they can and should participate in cultural events. Bernard Bosil of Jazzkeller Krefeld spoke for the representatives of these venues when he concluded by thanking them for the establishment of the venue program bonus. This appreciation was motivating, he said, because the past two years had been quite tough.
The URS Quartet provided the art with four pieces by Kenny Wheeler and by band member Ursula Wienken (bass). They elegantly blended into the flow of the evening. The music by guest vocalist Donya Solaimani, flugelhornist Frederik Hesse, bassist Wienken, pianist Moritz Petersen and drummer Jakob Görris floated, avoided stopping points, stretched motifs into cantilenas and favored irregular time signatures or the interruption of a routine four-beat bar by single three-beat bars. In the majority of the pieces, Donya Solaimani sang pure vocalises, in many a final formation she shied away from the tonic like the devil shies away from holy water, and indeed this music could have been heard for much longer.
The event was organized and moderated by Eva Luise Roth of the Landesmusikrat NRW. The venue program awards are presented by the NRW Ministry of Culture and Science and the NRW State Music Council. The next series will be announced in the fall of 2022.
Robert von Zahn