Amazingly, despite the fact Time itself seemed to stand still for weeks on end through April and into May, it somehow has managed to march on, bringing Spring itself in its wake. And if no further proof were needed that time has indeed progressed, our hair is now even longer and more unruly than ever before. Even the Prime Minister’s.
Unfortunately, around the world and just down South of us, we see cause for alarm as nations that should have prepared did not, leaving their populations vulnerable. And others face the growing onslaught of this epidemic with fewer resources and less robust public health infrastructures. It is hard to look away and impossible not to feel empathy and compassion and share the fear of those now facing worse to come, even as the immediate threat here at home begins to wane.
Despite our collective sorrow for the losses suffered by many Canadian families, we cannot also help feel gratitude, immense gratitude, for the privilege that finds us in this place at this time. But even here in B.C. as well as across Canada, we’ve been shocked to see the cultural damage this invisibly small virus has wrecked, leaving so many major performances and seasons canceled.
All of our major concert, theatre, and dance presenters, orchestras, opera companies, and choirs, are dealing with the loss of audience and income — and the artists who make up those companies are suddenly left without employment, leaving scars in our community that may take several years to heal.
Those larger ensembles and companies and producers and presenters and film companies are like reefs in an ocean, each supporting and protecting a rich, vibrant ecosystem of independent creators and artists. Their size and economic stability make more experimental and less commercial work, arguably some of the most important, possible.
Even now, as we begin to reopen, tentatively and slowly, they will be among the last to re-engage with their family of patrons, given the scale of audience necessary to their art forms. And in a cruel twist given how much work has gone into developing streams of earned income for many arts organizations, those that are the most entrepreneurial, that earn a large share of their income, will hurt the most.
Composers, too, have been extremely hard hit, with premieres and performances planned for months and commissions that have taken years to produce, suddenly eliminated, along with that important source of income.
Charlotte Higgins, Chief Culture Writer for the Guardian, writes about this very situation in the UK:
“The organisations that have been most successful in easing themselves away from “dependence” on the state … are the most vulnerable. Yet all organisations are on the brink. Losing them would mean not only losing an extraordinary arts infrastructure, in which so much of British national identity is bound up, but the network of education, social care and community work that the organisations provide.”
So, too, for Canada. All of these organizations, our own included, will need some kind of a bridge to the post-vaccine world, as do so many businesses. As Derek Thompson observed recently in The Atlantic, “the economic fallout of socially distancing for restaurants, stores, sports, arts, and the travel and hospitality industry is just beginning. Softening the blow of these sector-by-sector micro-recessions could require several rounds of economic relief over many years.”
We can praise the City of Vancouver, the Province of B.C., and the federal government for helping to lay the foundations of that bridge. The B.C. Arts Council, in particular, has made extraordinary efforts to respond quickly and strategically to the crisis.
But the cultural organizations that we care most for; as well as the independent artists and performers and creators we cherish; will all need our support, our kindness, our patience, and our love over the next year. So I felt it was important to acknowledge the rapidly altered reality many artists and organizations find themselves confronting.
But within that context I would also like to offer some thoughts that offer hope. We are seeing extraordinarily rapid innovation and improvisation across the arts world in Canada and across the globe. Artists are doing what they do regardless of circumstance or hardship: create, contextualize, illuminate, inspire, console, infuriate, challenge, mock, and ennoble.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All Things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
Esperanza Spalding (The Atlantic)
What light can CMC BC offer? How are we responding? ‘How are we seeking to overcome fear?’ and ‘How are we providing love?’ in the words of Chef Danny Mayer?
As Ms. Higgins from the Guardian goes on to observe later in the article quoted above: “Inventing something undreamed of, something even better than what existed before: that might be the true arts recovery plan, and a political legacy worth having.”
Jordan Nobles, our brilliant Librarian and composer, has done an extraordinary job of realizing and exceeding our shared goals for the new Unaccompanied online concert series produced in collaboration with Redshift Music Society. We now have enough funding secured and artists eager to perform that we hope to continue producing one new online performance every week right through the end of August.
And we’re thrilled to announce a major new educational initiative to take place later this summer — the Elliot Weisberger Readings — an online seminar in composition for emerging composers drawing on Weisgarber’s landmark work in Western/Asian musical fusion. More details will be announced early in June.
And responding to an uptick in demand, we have started delivering print and bind services again, safely, maintaining proper social distancing, with pickups arranged by appointment or shipped by mail.
Our team is starting to work in the centre again. Just one at a time, with only one of us in the space any given day of the week. It is a small step but for us a psychologically important one.
And we are making additional upgrades to our space — installing permanent sanitizer stations; adding touchless faucets and towel dispensers to the washrooms and kitchen; increasing regular sanitization of all touchables in the space — so it will be safe for staff, and ready, eventually, for patrons and artists to begin to return.
How do we see our role in the years to come? Our goal is to become the go-to Live-streaming and video recording partner for new music in Vancouver for programs featuring Canadian music and appropriate in size for the Murray Adaskin Salon.
Last year we installed nearly a mile* of fibre-optic cable into the Murray Adaskin Salon along with corresponding fixtures and connections, thanks to matching infrastructure grants from Heritage Canada and the City of Vancouver. We also purchased a full back-end of recording and mixing gear to take advantage of the four high-def 4G cameras we already own, thanks to the amazingly prescient vision of my predecessor Bob Baker.
We will do this Livesteaming and video work carefully and cautiously, following the extensive safety and sanitization protocol already established for our Unaccompanied series. And we will proceed slowly, to ensure we get that next phase right as we start to move into the Fall.
As we’ve ensured from the beginning of this outbreak, the safety of our Team and our collaborators and our patrons will be foremost in our minds. And we will be ready to revise or restrict our plans should the public health situation deteriorate at any time. Nothing is more important than surviving so that we can all emerge to revive and then thrive again.
A final word about our 2019-2020 season plans. When this outbreak first occurred, we hoped it might be possible to reschedule the two remaining performances originally scheduled for this Spring, producing them this Fall instead.
We now recognize that will not be possible, so we have taken the decision, in consultation with our presenting and performing partners, to formally cancel the planned Celebrations of Leila Lustig, and of Stephen Chatman, which also involved Vancouver Chamber Choir, UBC, and Vetta Chamber Players.
We will be reaching out to all ticket holders next week to offer a full refund, while offering them the option of donating those funds, with all proceeds going to pay musicians for additional performances in the Unaccompanied series.
Despite all this, we will meet again. Hopefully sooner than later. In the meantime, please be kind and patient with yourselves, so that you have more capacity to be kind and patient to those with less. And I hope you will continue practicing necessary social distancing and safe practices while enjoying the Sunshine that is bound soon to re-appear.
- ‘mile’ might possibly be considered an exaggeration, slightly