Here we are; fall has begun. Normally, by now we would have heard of all of the plans for the coming season including concerts, rehearsals and maybe some new member recruitment. This fall the focus is on closures. The most drastic one that we have heard of so far is the notice from the Toronto District School Board. Since the pandemic problems began, the board has locked the doors for all outside organizations. Now, the board has sent notices to outside organizations like bands, choirs and other renters of board facilities that they will remain locked out for the balance of the calendar year, and perhaps longer.

So how are community music groups coping? Most are actively seeking alternative rehearsal spaces; some have given up temporarily. A few are trying to maintain some form of Zoom rehearsal, or at least social gatherings. One of the more interesting activities I heard about is that Resa’s Pieces in cooperation with New Horizons Band Toronto (two ensembles I have written about frequently in the past) were in discussions with Long & McQuade Music to plan a few online Zoom sessions of advice from specialists at L & M. Stay tuned on that one!

Chris Lee and James Brown. Photo by Jack MacQuarrie

How are groups adapting?

While concert bands and similar large groups are basically shut down, smaller groups are adapting and new small groups are being formed. While most are simply rehearsing to maintain their skills and their social contacts, some are exploring small ensemble work for the first time. Rather than restrict their playing to in-house rehearsals, some have expanded their horizons and are performing on porches, on lawns, in driveways and even in cul-de-sacs where available. While some are simply impromptu events for the enjoyment of the players, others have been well organized to raise funds to assist professional musicians who have few, it any, paid gigs during the pandemic. In some cases, listeners are charged an admission fee, in others, donations are collected.

Read more: Fall Fare

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
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