These are the strangest of times.

By Friday, March 13 we at suddenlyLISTEN knew things were shifting quickly for us, our work, our friends and the entire planet. You already know what this email is about, so I’ll preface it with a true story:

The past 2 weeks have been the most rewarding and productive time for suddenlyLISTEN. We enjoyed 10 days with our first Artist-in-Residence, Montreal violist and vocalist Jennifer Thiessen. While she was in Halifax, Jen worked away in her little room at 1313 Hollis, and was visited most days by local musicians. Nine artists in all, enjoyed time playing, talking, and eating cookies with Jen. Each brought a different music, different stories and questions, and everyone learned from one another! To me, this is what suddenlyLISTEN is all about. Being in the same room, sharing stuff, making music together, learning from each other. Jen’s time culminated in a beautiful set of solo music at the Variety Show. It was perfect! Special thanks to the SOCAN Foundation for helping to fund Jen’s Residency. 

But that’s not all! A few hours before the Variety Show, six students from the NSCC Music Arts gathered at The Art Bar + Projects, with their teacher, sL regular performer and Improv Kitchen leader Geordie Haley, and me. We talked about improvisation, about intention, commitment to material, listening, sound and silence. And we played together. We went around the circle exchanging duets, and talked about what we heard. The difference in the music making between the first round of duos and the second was astounding! They found the path, they adjusted their ears to the way improvisers make music, and the kinds of sound we can use. by showtime they were nervous, but tuned in. Ezra, Brianna, Jesse, Mackenzie, Kassandra and Carter played 4 sets of different trios, and then joined everyone in a show closing full group piece, with Jen, Me and Geordie! What a great night. And the last night of music for suddenlyLISTEN for a while. We don’t know how long. No one knows how this still developing story is going go.

For now, we have cancelled the 3 concert tour by Chimera (Francois Houle, Tim Crofts and me) to Hamilton, Regina and Edmonton from March 15 to 21. We’ve cancelled our Improv Kitchens for March and April. We’ve also cancelled the April 16 concert by Mazen Kerbaj, Arthur Bull and Andrew Read Miller, along with the Saint John NB performance of that trio.

With a spirit of optimism, we have not yet cancelled the May concert of the music of Tim Crofts. I’m hoping that the world will be emerging from it’s challenges by then. If things are still unsafe, we will cancel that too.

These are weird and insecure times. Let’s make sure to look out for our neighbours, make sure they’re okay. Lots of people’s lives have been thrown into disarray. I’m thinking of all my friends in the performing arts who are all out of work now, the vast majority without any compensation and without an end in site. Now is a great time to support your neighbours AND the arts, if you have the means. It will take all of us some time to recover from this.

But COVID will end. And eventually, we’ll wake up in a new normal, and when we do, we’re going to need music and art to help us make sense of it. Until you can hear us live, why not pull out a CD or stream some new music, enjoy a good film, read a great book, draw, write, and play! Don’t worry, we’ll be there, itching to help you get back to new normal! And we’ll probably have a host of new recordings, plays, art pieces and compositions that we’ve made during COVID time to show you!

See you then, stay safe and healthy.