September 1, 2020 is fast approaching, and that date has quite some significance for The WholeNote. It was 25 years ago on September 1, 1995 that the very first edition of The WholeNote was introduced to Ontario’s music lovers. As for my association with this magazine, it was 14 years ago, on September 1, 2006 that my first Bandstand column appeared. I asked myself: “What has changed?” The answer: “What hasn’t?”

In that very first column I started by mentioning: “The Canadian National Exhibition has just opened for another season.” It won’t be open this year. I also stated: “For most of us that event is the harbinger of changes soon to come; shorter days, cooler weather, vacations over, back to school, and for many, back to band rehearsals after a summer recess.” No band rehearsals any time soon. Then I stated: “For others in the band community, it heralds the end of a busy round of park concerts.” No park concerts this year. 

So that leaves us with two questions. What were our community bands able to do this summer? Where does it leave our bands for the months to come?

Read more: The more it changes, the more it changes!

As the days drag on into weeks and the weeks drag on into months, with no live music, we are all suffering in some way or other. Finally I have learned from a local columnist that there is a name for our problem. He told me that we are all suffering from “pandemic fatigue.” 

While this column has a focus on instrumental music, we recently learned of a vocal number which sums up the feelings of almost all musicians at this time of isolation. There are a couple of choral versions of What Would I Do Without My Music. They can be found at youtube.com/watch?y=CC1HtFCaBys.

Staying In Touch

In many cases we have heard nothing from bands about how their members are coping. Most, though, are staying in touch with members at least by email. So I have two questions: 1) How are all the bands and their members coping with this situation while they cannot play together? 2) What are the plans for the bands when that distant day arrives, and how will the long absence have affected their morale and performance? 

Read more: How to Fight Pandemic Fatigue? Practise.

Uxbridge Museum Heritage Day - I was dressed for the occasion and sitting on a bench that I donated.This month’s column is a very different perspective on the current status of music in our part of the world. There is no point in discussing in generalities the coronavirus pandemic. We have heard enough about it. As a columnist friend, Roger Varley, who writes for Cosmos, a weekly community newspaper in Uxbridge, recently remarked, “It’s rather like going to a Luciano Pavarotti concert only to hear him sing Nessun Dorma over and over again for two hours.” Instead, let’s have a more specific look at how this pandemic is affecting our musical world, starting by dividing our musical world into two groups: performers and listeners (with, hopefully, almost all performers being listeners to forms of music other than that which they perform). The coronavirus has forced us all into quarantine.

Performers

The regulations now in effect, affect music makers in several ways. First, as they stand, the laws have closed all possible locations where groups might rehearse or perform until further notice. Second, even if there were places, no groups larger than five individuals, other than those who live in the same location, are permitted to assemble. Third, all people in a group must maintain a separation of at least two metres.

Read more: Digitally Aided Rehearsals and Reminiscences

Last month’s column opened with the following cautionary note: “Beware the Ides of March. Thus spoke the soothsayer as he warned Julius Caesar of his impending doom. As we know from history, the soothsayer was correct in his warning to Caesar.” With this quote, I was merely indicating that we had no idea what might be happening in the band world, because we had not heard from any bands about their scheduled activities. We did not think that there might be any impending doom. We certainly could not have forecast the doom which has beset our planet. Call it coronavirus or COVID-19, this pandemic has certainly upset our musical world. Most community musical groups rehearse and perform in schools, community centres, churches or similar venues. Almost without exception, these are all closed until further notice. Even if the venues had not been closed, most groups would certainly not get together with so many people in close contact.

For many bands this will be a wait-and-see situation. Some have already announced a suspension of all rehearsals and concerts for the season. A couple that we have heard of have announced innovative plans. In one case, the band has made arrangements for those who do not have their music folder at home and would like to keep up with practice during this break time. The Band Librarian has offered to create PDF copies of music from individual music folders. These would then be emailed to those who wished, and they would print them at home. In this situation each member would be limited to three or four pieces. Members also have been given the link to MP3 sample recordings of music in the band’s practice folder. 

Another approach is to have the band “Go Virtual on Practice Night.” Their band memo says: “COVID-19 might stop us from having our weekly Monday rehearsals and social gathering BUT with modern technology we can “STAY CONNECTED”!! Band members are invited to “Join our rehearsal night VIRTUAL GATHERING (in lieu of rehearsals) from your computer, tablet, iPhone, iPad. They are also given information on how to join a Zoom meeting. 

Read more: Didgeridoo Meets Theremin While We Wait and See

Beware the Ides of March! Thus spoke the soothsayer as he, correctly, warned Julius Caesar of his impending doom. While “impending doom” is probably not the cause, we haven’t heard much of anything from our current band world about any activities planned for the month of March of this year, at least not in time to report on here. On the bright side, while waiting for information on coming band activities, I had time to check on the meaning of the Ides of March. While the term originally referred to the full moon, in ancient Rome it was the time for several religious observances and was also a deadline for settling debts. It is the word “deadline”, particularly, that caught my eye. In fairness to bands in our part of the world, it may be that the month of March may be one of preparation, but not performance. In a few cases, notices we receive, about concerts that have been in the works for months, arrive only a few days before the event. For us to mention an event we must receive any notice no later than the 15th of the month prior to the event. Be aware of the Ides of March (Sunday March 15) is therefore my message this month. Send me your April concert listings by then and I will be sure to make mention of them here.

Newmarket Citizens BandBehind the Scenes
As many of you know full well, keeping a concert band going requires a few activities other than concert preparation and performances. These include library updating, financial matters and executive elections among others. As I think about such non-performance activities, a few stand out. Obviously a well-organized and well-catalogued library tops the list. There isn’t space here to detail the many possible formats, but with most bands having access to computers, a spreadsheet where searches may be easily done based on title, composer, library catalogue number, style etc. is easy to create and maintain! A few bands I know have a numbering system for all selections in their libraries, but others just stick to names. I’m a big proponent of a numbering system. When the conductor calls out a number to rehearse, everyone knows what to get. If the conductor should call for a selection such as Pop and Rock Legends: Elton John, and filing is alphabetical, one might look for Pop, Rock or Elton John. Numbering all of the charts would eliminate any confusion. Years ago I played with someone who filed any chart with a name starting with The under the letter T.

Read more: Tenth Anniversary: NHB’s Expanded Horizons
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