Our Director Lori Burns was asked to create a video as part of the Arts in April events in 2021. The following is the transcript of her presentation:
I have been invited to speak on the theme of resilience in the face of loss. After this year of extraordinary challenges, I hope you will find ways to relate to this theme, as I speak on behalf of my colleagues and students in the field of Music.
This past academic year has been like no other in our institutional history. While, across the world, lives have been affected and transformed by the pandemic, the community members of the School of Music have faced challenges that we never imagined. For those who have followed the impact upon the professional music industry, you will appreciate how the constraints upon gatherings have affected our professors and students in the domain of music.
In the face of these restrictions, I am proud of my community for seeking out and finding extraordinary ways to move forward in creative musical expression. Students have quickly adopted technologies for the capture of performance in the privacy of their own homes; professors have adapted their pedagogical methods to communicate across virtual platforms on the most subtle nuances of vocal and instrumental expression. Performers have sat far apart wearing masks to create beautiful ensemble recordings, with each member of the ensemble working individually. Musicians who formerly did not have the responsibility to produce and edit recordings suddenly expanded their toolkits in order to do so.
Can you imagine preparing an opera by recording the orchestra in a series of recording sessions in Tabaret Hall, to be used as the foundation for the recording sessions of the vocalists, all separated by plexiglass and coordinated by a team of production experts?
Can you imagine hosting distinguished guests from afar to offer masterclass teaching to our extraordinary performance students? Our technology team has become quite expert at creating the perfect supportive environment for musical performance training to take place in a virtual world. I would add that some of the special visitors we have received this year would not have been introduced to our students in the past due to the costs and logistics of traveling. The world has become a smaller through the marvels of technology.
In years past, our aspirational Music at Tabaret performance series would only have been enjoyed by the local community, and if one did not feel very well on that particular Sunday afternoon, one might have missed the event. This year, our special M@T performances were attended by a larger audience than ever before, with spectators joining in the livestream from all around the world.
Throughout this past year, the leadership team of the School of Music has endeavoured to see not only the restrictions, but also the opportunities posed by the new modalities of music performance. When I have consulted my wise and experienced colleagues, they have reported many positive aspects of the musical training that has evolved over the course of this year.
I will close with a focus on a tragic loss that has had a tremendous impact upon the musical world. On October 31st, 2020, we lost our beloved Professor of violin, Yehonatan Berick, to a sudden illness. Across the globe, former students and collaborators shared memories, photos, and musical experiences on social media. Colleagues from Yehonatan’s past teaching universities--McGill and the University of Michigan—wrote immediately to share condolences and memories. Far and wide, musicians came together to reflect on his brilliance, sensitivity, and humour.
When musicians feel loss, they turn to music and to creativity. In order to channel our collective feelings about this incredible musician and human being, students and colleagues created recordings of beautiful music.
I will close with a brief clip of 50 violinists—current and former students—led by our colleagues Yosuke Kawasaki and Jessica Linnebach of the National Arts Centre Orchestra. I hope you will appreciate this remarkable feat of music engineering as a significant vehicle for passionate musical expression in the face of loss. This is human resilience in musical form.