Edmonton musician thanks grocery workers with free concert

A local singer-songwriter staged a free concert in an Edmonton Safeway store Thursday afternoon to show his appreciation for front-line workers.

The store manager hoped Martin Kerr could surprise staff with a musical performance mid-shift.

“The staff at a supermarket are doing such essential work,” Kerr said.

“They’re working really hard and putting themselves in harm’s way every day to keep the rest of us alive – and they don’t get nearly enough thanks.”

Heritage Safeway manager, Gord Petruk, got the idea after Kerr’s music caught his attention on a run around the neighbourhood.

“They had this guy out on the front street, singing. So I stopped and listened for a few minutes. It was very inspiring. The music was unbelievable,” Petruk said.

“It just really made my day and I thought, ‘If we could do this for my staff, it would just be unbelievable.’”

Kerr started playing outdoor socially distant concerts after a fan asked him to come play for her and her neighbours from their alley.

“My manager and I thought this was a great idea so we put it out on my Facebook profile that we were going to start doing these and requests started flooding in,” he said.

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So far Kerr has booked 20 concerts across Edmonton.

“It’s been so satisfying and enjoyable to see people enjoying live music and sharing each other’s company at a safe distance.

Reaction to the shows has been heart-warming, Kerr said.

“People have been coming up to me at the end of the show with tears in their eyes, saying how much they needed this, and how much they’ve been struggling.”

Thursday afternoon’s concert at Safeway was special though. Kerr did it for free, and donated his tips back to the store’s 130 employees.

“My hope today really is to put some smiles on some faces,” he said.

Petruk said he wanted to show his employees how much their work is valued, especially during the pandemic.

“We used to have such a simple job of putting a can of beans on the shelf. It’s gone from that to making sure our store is safe, every second of the day, for our great customers.”

Customer Sharon Jonzon agreed.

“I heard this music and I was immediately drawn to it. He’s got a great voice, but he’s also got a great message – telling all the workers here what a great job they’re doing.”

Blaine Leroy is a manager trainee at Superstore. He said the concert lifted spirits.

“It makes me feel really good to see the staff smiling, dancing and singing along – just forgetting everything for a little while and having some fun at work.”

Kerr said he’s been mixing in classic covers of songs “that remind people of good times” with his own music.

The average concert lasts about 45 minutes.

“Music has this strange power over people’s heart. And it’s a privilege to be able to bring it to people,” Kerr said.

“I really hope that other artists can take this on because everybody loves music and needs music, especially in hard times. There’s so much talent in the city of Edmonton.”

To book a concert, visit Kerr’s website.

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