The tragedy of not being able to gather together and share live music is such a great loss, and I find myself and many of my friends and colleagues mourning this loss deeply.
For me, the first couple of weeks were the hardest when my concerts were cancelled for the foreseeable future. I have since taken this time to work on my own playing at a slower pace than usual hectic every-day life allows time for. Twice a week, I have been taking online Feldenkreis lessons (a kind of body awareness, movement and mindfulness class) given by a friend of mine in London, and I have taken time to try to apply these lessons and this greater awareness to my own playing. With the sudden evaporation of all previous deadline-based goals and ambitions, there is time to examine and observe one’s playing with greater detail than ever before. It has been revealing to discover what unnecessary tension and mannerisms I had built over the decades. Having the time to ‘re-connect’ with one’s instrument and playing in a more mindful way has felt like a blessing; when the mind and body free up from their own tension and blockages, new creative possibilities spur.
Social media and the internet have been wonderful tools for connecting with people and sharing musical content. However, I am somewhat wary about considering online content as a replacement for live performances. Digital media operates at a different speed, sites compete with each other for attention, and bite-sized content is favoured over things that require deeper focus and listening over longer periods of time. It is the shared experience with others in real time and space that makes live performances so exhilarating and meaningful. I am hoping we will use this ‘great pause’ as a time to deepen our relationship with arts and our lives, not getting lost, scattered, and overwhelmed by the avalanche of news, information, and online content coming at us at such high speed at all times.
At the same time, I do think it’s important we take the time to connect in the ways we can (if only online) to share the message: we are in this crisis together, and the arts are still a common realm where we can connect and share our human experience, especially at times of loss and uncertainty. Despite the inability to gather together, we still have the ‘lights on’ and ‘the flame burning’.
The music I find myself turning to especially in times such as these is that of J.S. Bach. It felt very strange and hollow to observe Lent and Holy Week without any of the performances of Passion music that I would have usually been participating in. Here is one of my favourite chorales from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion: