The times we are living through are as strange as any we have known. We find ourselves united in a powerful common cause, participating collectively in a massive and epic struggle against a common foe. Yet we have never been nor felt more alone.
We have not in our lifetime seen the country so united in efforts to flatten the curve. Yet we find ourselves hunkered down in isolation. Our common, shared experience is distance; is absence; is separation. It is in fact loss.
Loss of company. Loss of community. Loss of family. Loss of friends. Loss of touch. Of love, in fact. And compounding this loss, all the harder for those reading this, is the loss of music itself. That most healing of all the arts. Music performed. Music experienced new, explored together and savoured in shared communal catharses.
And this sense of loss is compounded all the more because the musicians we all know and care for, who have devoted their entire lives to bringing the music we love to life, have been silenced, their incomes lost. And the presenters, and all of the small collectives and ensembles, and choirs, and orchestras and operas we love, are hurting — their stages dark.
But what we are really missing, more than anything, perhaps without realizing it, are the unique audiences that each artist and ensemble and presenter have carefully curated over years and decades. When New York’s City Opera closed, Verlyn Klinkenborg lamented it’s passing in an impassioned and moving cri de coeur:
“What’s been lost? For one thing, the audience, soon to become a memory, like City Opera itself. What keeps a cultural legacy like City Opera alive isn’t the archives or the recordings or the institutional history. It’s the audience members milling about in what used to be the New York State Theater, waiting to take their seats, living in anticipation of spending more nights like the ones they’ve already spent watching City Opera performances. The audience is continuous from season to season, not the productions. And now that audience — the one that gathered for the things City Opera did so well — has been disbanded.”
All across the province of B.C., it is these unique and devoted audiences we are missing. Without them, there are no performances. No productions. No world premieres. No encores. No standing ovations. No commissions. No debuts. No shared joy or passion. No cries of “Brava!” No whistles. No mosh pit.
And so, as it is with the musicians we care for, it is to that audience I say: “We miss you.” All of you. Without you, nothing we love is possible.
But there is nonetheless hope. The weather here is beginning to turn towards Spring. Trees are turning green again. Easter, Vaisakhi, Ramadan, and Passover—all festivals of life, of survival, of renewal—beckon.
And every night at 7:00pm there is one euphoric moment as we all join together in a great chorus to bang our pots and cowbells, clap our hands, whistle and cheer for the health workers whose heroics have saved us from the worst and opened a path to healing and recovery.
Our shared isolation, as difficult as it is to sustain, is succeeding in flattening the curve that remains the biggest threat to our healthcare system and to those workers. While we are nowhere near the peak of cases in Canada yet, the rate of increase is slowing and there are signs of hope.
But if, and only if, we maintain our quiet individual vigils of both solitude and fortitude. And then, and only then, will we be able to come together again to mourn those we’ve lost, but also to celebrate the beauty life offers, to celebrate our collective survival, and to allow ourselves to hope again that better days are ahead, full of shared joy and exultation that can only come from those transcendent moments shared in a packed theatre hearing music together.
We want you to know how much we miss you. But we know we’ll be together again. And we just want to encourage you to double down in your efforts to remain safe and isolated until we get there.