It has been nearly two full years since the arrival of Covid. That last rehearsal before one of my choirs was completely laid off is seared in my memory. It was a passionate, determined, somewhat naive affair. I really thought we would be back.
Since that time my life and the life of my family have been more rock and roll than I would have liked. Restrictions from organizations controlled everything moreso than any other time in the past. Safety comes first, of course, as it should. It was an interesting experience to work in multiple provinces with multiple views of how we could operate at all. This led me in completely divergent directions – sometimes innovative, sometimes nearly immobile. It was a really wide experience.
So this is the first blog entry here in many-a-year. We just gave a concert with Dead of Winter (formerly Camerata Nova) that was a delight and a challenge. Lots of current compositions, lots of Manitoba composers, and a fair helping of early music.
Singing with masks is still hard. Even with all this experience, we still struggle to breath, see, and hear. Distance challenges everything. The singers are harder to hear from the podium, compounded by some singers being a full 6 feet closer than others. Its just so much harder to hear the back row now.
But the moments of real beauty and connection are worth it. As an ensemble, we all pulled together and did our very best to create a memorable experience for our community.
In many ways, thats really the most important thing. To connect, and make a memory for someone to hold on to, to offer music as an act of service that will be of use to a listener. Even with a mask on, music still has the power to heal and transform, even if we feel like we might not always be functioning at 100%.
If I learned anything this weekend, it is that some audiences don’t care if we are operating at 100%. They care that we are there and looking to connect and make a memory. Even though our second concert was incredibly good, I don’t think it was received with any more enthusiasm than the first concert, which was sometimes beautiful and sometimes a bit frustrating as a performer. I even gave the group a little pep talk in the middle of the show because nerves/anxiety is real, especially in the first concert in two years for most of these brave and wonderful singers. As far as I could tell, the audience just wanted us to be at our best at that moment, whatever that meant. And we were.
And its not just about bringing together community at large, but its also about the singers. I watched and listened with pride as we negotiated some truly hard renaissance pieces with skill and eloquence. It was real early music singing, at least as I’ve come to understand it. We sang in multiple styles sampling multiple composers. When I started making music in Winnipeg our singing was capable but not necessarily specifically tailored in this way. Now this happens much more quickly. I’m not alone in helping this happen in Winnipeg, the singers like it and that helps alot. And the public likes it too – hundreds of people come out to listen to renaissance and baroque music. What I feel is a sense of satisfaction that the singers have been acquired a new skill set they can use at will.
Thats a service to the community too.