My niece Nathalie, currently sailing with her family in French Polynesia, told me about a saying among sailors, who are subject to the whims of ocean and weather: “Plans are written in the sand at low tide.” This has become true in the past months for musicians as well as many others. Just as we make new plans for concert-giving, a new tide of restrictions washes them away.
In mid-March I was in Amsterdam rehearsing with the Orchestra of the 18th Century. As we began our final rehearsal the announcement came through that all public events were cancelled. This orchestra of 50 friends representing 14 nationalities, with whom I have played four or five times a year since its founding in 1981, bumped elbows and said goodbye, not knowing when we would meet again.
Upon returning home to Bowen Island, I realized that without a concert in sight I would be reluctant to pick up my violin and I would likely be miserable. In a desperate act of self-preservation, every two weeks I invited locals to my spacious house under strict distancing and hygiene rules to hear me play one of Bach’s solos for unaccompanied violin. This turned into a perfect opportunity to perform these wonderful but difficult pieces over three concerts where between 6 and 26 listeners attended, depending on family ‘bubbles’. It also afforded me the opportunity to get to know and offer something back to this fine community where I have lived for the past three years. Once I’d completed the Bach cycle I moved onto playing concerts with one or two colleagues, including Natasha Hall! By the time further restrictions were introduced in October I’d played 28 concerts of 10 short programs for a total audience of more than 400. As the days get longer, springtime and a vaccination are in view, we can start to anticipate a return to live concerts once more. Perhaps a new normal will bring a deeper appreciation for how shared artistic experiences enrich our lives.