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The Show Goes On

Despite a pandemic, Desautels musicians can't be silenced

May 7, 2020 — 

COVID-19 has abruptly changed the ways in which we meet, communicate, and collaborate. While current public health measures have led to cancellations of concerts, musicians are finding innovative ways to ensure that the show goes on. Indeed, videos from around the world have shown just how important music is in buoying spirits and tying communities together. From impromptu jam sessions on balconies to elaborate remote recording sessions, music reminds us that we will find a way to persevere.

Members of the Desautels Faculty of Music community have been no different.

Victoria Sparks

Desautels percussion instructor Victoria Sparks, whose April 22, 2020 Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO) performance was cancelled, instead gave an interview and performance through MCO’s new “MCO at Home” series. In it, she performed Dame Evelyn Glennie’s beautiful “Little Prayer.” She dedicated the performance to all those “living, recovering, and working in healthcare and long-term care facilities.” Her performance, and the performances of many other talented Manitoba musicians, can be found HERE.

Tracy Dahl, Monica Huisman, and Laura Loewen

For Desautels faculty members Laura Loewen (collaborative piano), Monica Huisman (soprano), and Tracy Dahl (soprano), remote collaboration is complicated. Effective collaborative piano performers work with the visual and auditory cues they receive from their collaborators, so performing together from afar involves more than a click-track to ensure synchrony and tempo. After determining the pieces they would perform, Loewen, Dahl, and Huisman engaged in a series of back-and-forth recordings to ensure the integrity of the performances, with Loewen listening to and watching each performer’s final vocal performance multiple times before providing her final collaborative piano piece. The separate pieces were then sent to Toronto-based tenor Colin Ainsworth, who quickly and deftly edited them together into a final video performance. Huisman and Loewen performed Richard Strauss’ “Zueignung.” Dahl and Loewen performed “Old Mother Hubbard,” by Victor Hely Hutchinson, with a standout debut performance from Dahl’s other isolation collaborator, Dobbie (dog, vocal range undetermined). Huisman and Loewen’s collaboration can be seen HERE, while Dahl and Loewen’s collaboration can be seen HERE.

Cynthia Weaver

Meanwhile, Desautels alumna Cynthia Weaver (B.Mus 2003/B.Ed 2006), now a band director at Shaftesbury High School, wanted to find a way to thank unsung healthcare professionals for their work in caring for COVID-19 patients. She quickly rounded up an ensemble of trumpet professionals and students, which included Desautels Faculty of Music trumpet professor Richard Gillis, and the group convened outside of Victoria General Hospital, keeping a distance of three metres between them. Despite strong winds threatening to make off with their sheet music, and without the benefit of pre-performance rehearsal, the impromptu group performed Aaron Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” and “Amazing Grace” as exhausted but appreciative doctors, nurses, and carers looked on from the entrance of the hospital. The CBC’s coverage of their performance can be seen HERE.

Nelson Bettencourt

Finally, some musicians  have found other ways to contribute to the fight against COVID-19, including Nelson Bettencourt, (B.Mus. 2013). Now living in London, one of the cities hardest hit by the pandemic, Bettencourt’s performance engagements in Canada were cancelled. With time on his hands, he signed on to work at London’s hospitals as a cleaner. When asked by the hospital how many hours and how much he was willing to work, Bettencourt was steadfast in his answer: “I’ll work whatever you need.” CTV New’s story about Bettencourt can be found HERE.

While the world waits apprehensively to see what the future holds, one thing is certain. Music will help to carry us through this. The show goes on.


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