My life as a professional musician is a career I truly treasure, and I firmly believe that being a professional musician is a special honour. While performing and perfecting my skills on the cello, I have had the privilege of seeing a significant part of the world. When an audience is inspired, moved or transported by the music I perform, there is no feeling like it. Hearts are touched instantly, intimately, without exchanging a word, and often to long-lasting effect. What better joy can one take away from his or her work?

Ten years ago, the seed of an idea led me to Quadra Island where, with the help of Lois Taylor at the Heriot Bay Inn, we launched the annual Quadra Island Festival of Chamber Music. Supported by dedicated board members over the years, as well as the generosity of the community, the festival has become a summer destination. We were about to celebrate our 10th anniversary this year when Covid-19 hit. So, instead of being on Quadra, I am in Brazil.

Philip Hanson with Friend at Carnival

Being anywhere in the world these days as a musician is a particular challenge, as all of us suddenly found ourselves without our colleagues, venues and audiences. In the grand scheme of things, musicians were the first to lose their jobs and will most probably be among the last to return to our professional endeavors.

As a Canadian musician living in Brazil, I perform in an orchestra for an income. With the pandemic, many of us fear that the ensemble will be disbanded, perhaps not as a permanent measure, but as a cost saving manoeuvre until this strange time has passed. What job protection is in place down here can be taken away more easily.

Sala Minas Gerais (Minas Gerais Hall)
Minas Gerais Hall, Belo Horizonte, Brazil
Sala Minas Gerais (Minas Gerais Hall) Interior
Performance Hall at Sala Minas Gerais (Minas Gerais Hall)

On first glance, life under Covid in Brazil looks barely different from that in Canada. Fewer people are going out and we are enjoying a less-hazy view of the mountains. A majority of people are observing mask and distance guidelines. However, the gap between the rich and the poor in Brazil is distinct. One example is public transport which has been cut due to the recent economic strain. Buses and trains are over-crowded, increasing the prospect of a devastating public health emergency.

Right now, I am stuck in limbo, waiting and hoping I will be back on stage once again doing what I love. In the meantime, I practice cello. I study. I teach on-line and connect with other musicians. At times, I even contemplate alternate careers but continue to pray for a speedy end to these strange times.

I look forward to the return of the Quadra Island Festival of Music as well as my return to Canada which I am missing more than ever.