Over the last two weeks, it seems a lot of arts organizations are slowly pivoting away from the waiting-it-out phase of the damage limitation in response to the lockdown, and towards a more adaptive response. From #TSOatHome to Against the Grain Theatre’s Virtual Opera Salons, organizations big and small are beginning to generate non-traditional content as an adjustment to a new normal.
The intuitive call for a lot of these organizations was to hold their breath till September, when the public’s confidence in gathering is hopefully much higher than when quarantine is finally lifted. But of course that is an unknown date, and a lot of the projects that could be revived in fall are in need of ample rehearsal time and space, months ahead of that eventuality. In the face of that uncertainty, the ability for a large organization to scale down to smaller projects in the meantime might very well be the trend in May.
That’s the spirit sported by the COC Ensemble Studio’s pianist, Rachael Kerr. She’s remained virtually available to support members of the Ensemble Studio who choose to rehearse and remain active at this junction. She joins us to discuss life at home and at the piano, as well as what she thinks some organizations are doing right.
How are you doing during this lockdown?
It’s definitely been an adjustment! While I’ve enjoyed a bit of the slower pace of life lately, I definitely miss the energy of working on artistic projects with colleagues in the same room or theatre! I’m sure others can relate — some days I get lost in projects and enjoy spending time outside; other days I feel such an immense sadness and loss, grieving everything that’s gone for the time being. But I know I will look back and see this time as a super unique phase and someday I’ll be glad for it!
How are you keeping busy artistically?
The Ensemble Studio has still been busy training virtually — keeping up with coachings, lessons, diction work, and some video projects. I’ve been making lots of recordings to help my colleagues have something to rehearse with if they need it. I’ve also had the chance to make a few videos as well for the COC’s #OperaAtHome series with some of the mainstage artists joining us next season — so I’ve gotten to “meet” new singer friends in this time too, sometimes even halfway around the globe! What’s also been fulfilling is the chance to practice some solo piano repertoire — something I rarely have time for — and even break out a few études. They’re giving me quite the workout!
Any specific books, films, or TV on the go?
I really love watching British crime shows on Netflix, The Stranger being my latest fix. I also tearfully watched the Schitt’s Creek series finale along with the rest of the world — what a great show!
Any words of wisdom to get through this?
Someone said to me recently that when things get frustrating during this time, it’s better to just lean into that frustration rather than rail against it. That’s been very helpful. And I think gratitude is also really important as well. When I feel down, I start listing in my head even the smallest things I can be grateful for in that moment, no matter how insignificant, and it usually brightens my outlook.
What do you think are some of the ways arts communities can better prepare for adjusting to a crisis such as this?
Ooh, that’s a tough question. I don’t know how any organization could have been FULLY prepared beforehand for what this means for our industry, but I do think that having an interesting and creative online presence is a big part of it. A lot of arts communities have already adapted really well to this in a few short weeks, so that is very exciting to see! I’m also encouraged to see how many arts organizations are contributing by giving back to their communities, with their members volunteering to help vulnerable sectors, and using resources they have to re-tool for pandemic purposes (ie, costume shops making masks and gowns).