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2023/3/23 - DoTTS Faculty 教員コラム

“Experiencing Live Performances” (Lisa Gayle Bond )

 Life has changed drastically since Japan first heard of sick passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama back in late January, 2020.  The uncertainties of how to navigate a virus-ridden world were difficult for many.  Yet life began to take on a new, virtual form, and a new life, a new way emerged to help us all through the difficult times. As I have always enjoyed singing with a choral group, I found that I could continue participating in that group by submitting vocal recordings to a wonderful music director that put my recordings with others, edit and mix them and finally put them on the Web for others to see and listen to.  It was not easy for any of us, but it was indeed a “bandaid” for the musicians and artists that needed a way to express themselves.  It helped, and I, like many, was quite grateful for the opportunity to sing and be a remote part of a group connected through music and the Internet. 
 During the difficult days of the pandemic, I had the opportunity to attend two concerts.  One was in Yokosuka, and it one of my favorite groups – Kodo from Sado Island.  If you have never attended a Kodo concert, all I can say is it is a dynamic performance filled with Japanese traditional instruments, mostly percussion, and it is one concert I would urge everyone to go and experience.  The key word is “experience” because as the performers begin, the hearts of those listening begin to beat in rhythm with the drums, and as each piece comes to a climax followed by a sudden silence of the instruments, the sighs and exhaling of those in the audience can be heard as soon as the visible tension of the muscles of the performers is released, and this is then when the clapping of hands begins.  It is an experience where all, listeners and performers alike, become one with the beating of the drums and the rhythm of the music.  Dynamic is a word to describe it, and it is a concert that can truly only be experienced LIVE. 
 The other concert I attended was in Kawasaki.  It was a performance of St. Matthew’s Passion by Bach and performed by the Bach Collegium Japan and directed by Masaaki Suzuki.  I have loved Bach’s music since I was quite young, and I have always loved St. Matthew’s Passion and listened to bits and pieces of it quite frequently, but I had never seen it performed live until that day. Listening to a recording of this piece in either analog (LP vinyl) or digital (CD) form is quite different from listening, no experiencing, this piece LIVE.  And the Bach Collegium Japan performs this piece in such a way that the experience is extraordinary to say the least.  When entering the concert hall, one first notices the set-up of the stage.  There are instruments in the middle with places for singers on either side of the instruments.  The group is divided in to two sections with 12 singers and ten instrumentalists each.  Each section’s sound matches the other as perfectly as humanly possible, and the polyphony sounds surround the listeners providing a musical experience that is both mesmerizing and soothing to the soul. The purity of the sound, the performance – the experience – was such that only a live performance can provide.  It was breathtaking and beautiful.
 In between these two concerts, I was asked to help sing for a wedding.  The group I often sing with came together just an hour prior to the wedding to prepare for the event.  Each singer had spent time and practiced their part, and so the music went together rather quickly and though there were a few problems and we were still learning how to sing through our masks, the wedding and the music helped provide a celebration for the couple and their families and friends. 
 I also have had the opportunity to sing for two other occasions.  The practice time was quite limited so as not to create an environment for the Covid virus to spread amongst us, but we were all excited to come together to sing and laugh just like the “old times”.  The time spent in preparing for the events was shortened, so each individual had “homework” and “practice” to complete prior to the rehearsals and the event.  Unlike times before the pandemic when I would sit at the piano and play the medley over and over again and practice with my piano, I found that I had moved from my piano bench to my computer desk.  I searched YouTube for various arrangements of the pieces we were singing and listened to them over and over again.  Then I would practice with my iPad open and my piano application on.  After my individual attempts at practice, I would rush to the venue for practice with my friends.  As it had been a long time since we all had come together, the director had a difficult time keeping us (keeping me?) quiet and on task.  We were all excited, like children on the first day of school after a long break, and we just wanted to catch up with what had happened over the course of the pandemic.  Work, family, friends – stories were shared among us all as we recognized that though our group is one for music, it is truly more than that.

 Both performances went okay.  There were some problems and some mistakes – mostly made by me.  However, unlike the virtual music performances previously held by our small group, these were “Live” performances.  There was no erasing, no going back, and no retaking the sound or pieces.  As is common for live performances, we moved through the music, one piece at a time (for me one mistake at a time), until it was completed and we could all take a deep breath and exhale a big sigh of relief.  Unlike previous performances we did not stay long after to linger and talk or go to a nearby restaurant for dinner before going home.  We packed up our music, smiled under our masks, waved goodbye and went on our separate ways.

 Now I am practicing for another “Live” performance.  It is coming up soon, and so I am looking forward to the two rehearsals that will be held in the very near future.  As in the past few performances, I am sitting in front of my computer screen with my music and iPad close by to prepare for the short time we will have to practice together.  I am listening and practicing with YouTube videos, and I might even get brave and head for my piano bench before the first rehearsal.  With the increase in rehearsals and opportunities to sing, I recognize that my world and my life is gradually returning to something that in some ways resembles pre-Covid days.   The dread of a data deadline for sending off an individual recording has passed.  Now I fear being late for the scheduled rehearsal or having hay fever bad enough to get in the way of my efforts to sing on pitch.  I also fear making mistakes that cannot be erased or covered up.  But beyond my fears, I am excited that we can come together and join our voices.  We can all experience the music together, and we can all work together to blend the sounds so that a beautiful harmony can be presented to those listening. 
 Covid-19 is still around us, though the numbers have dropped considerably in recent weeks.  The Diamond Princess has once again returned to the Port of Yokohama carrying passengers cruising around Japan and Asia.  Society is beginning to shift from a masked-up, socially distanced, on-demand digital world to a mask when deemed necessary, socially connected and “live” or perhaps even “alive” environment. The conveniences and certainties of ZOOM and digitally enhanced environments are being replaced with analog situations filled with uncertainties, mistakes, laughter and human warmth that can truly only be experienced in a LIVE venue.  The steps we take in the coming weeks may be unfamiliar for some and uncertain for others.  BUT I think most of us have come to realize that experiencing the cherry blossoms and other important parts of life – concerts, friendships, school, music, celebrations, LIFE – are much better experienced outside of the digital realm and in a LIVE / LIVING environment.  SO, with courage and joy, I will sing with my friends and hope to make the music both meaningful and beautiful for all those who are there to listen.  But more importantly, I will once again be able to recognize just how lucky or blessed I am to be able to EXPERIENCE the music with my friends when we sing it “LIVE”.