Yesterday was another beautiful totally cloudless “big blue sky” day out there and spring is definitely coming.
Normally I would be sitting here at my desk getting ready for the “Next Big Thing” at CHSO, sending emails to musicians, doing administrative duties after yesterday’s Claflin Hill Youth Symphonies rehearsal day, and taking care of the many, many details and tasks that it takes to insure that when our audiences arrive back at the concert hall on the night of a performance that they are treated to the world-class and amazing evening of music and community sharing that they have become accustomed to.
Instead, Monday morning I went over to Milford Town Hall to clear away all of our orchestra set up in the Grand Ballroom, in preparation for a major disinfecting cleaning that will be done at Town Hall this week.
We have postponed our March 21th Jazz Concert which was to be held at Caffé Sorrento featuring the return of The Mark Zaleski Band until September. Our annual CHSO Family Symphony Matinee, which would have been on March 29, has been CANCELLED.
We still have hopes to perform our May 4 season finale of the CHSO Apple Tree Arts Chamber Series and the Season Finale of the Twentieth Anniversary Season on April 25.
We all hope that this COVID-19 Virus emergency has slowed or abated by then! Stay tuned for updates!
I know we are ALL experiencing feelings of disconnection, aimlessness, and ambivalence at the moment – everything we have come to know as “normal routine” has suddenly been ripped away from us.
That gorgeous day Sunday, and yesterday morning’s perfect azure sky belies the “pestilence” permeating and lurking unseen in the air we breathe and makes us wary of being too close to our fellow humans. It reminds me very much of the days immediately following September 11 – if you remember, those were near perfect late summer days in that week, but when you were out and about, you became totally aware of the “silence” around us – no airplanes flying overhead, people staying home, glued to their televisions, and the total sense of uncertainty about the future or even our physical well-being and safety.
We got through that crisis together, and others after that – these times can bring out the very best in the human spirit – (although sometimes the worst too!, but more of the best) – and these shared crises provide moments for us to remember that we are all brothers and sisters together on this planet and that it is only together that we will succeed and win out over this latest adversity. As Abraham Lincoln put is so eloquently in his Second Inaugural Address, “the better angels of our nature can keep alive within each of us that piece of the divine that we are all born with.”
There are upsides to these moments – after all, we are constantly bemoaning that people are too dependent upon their high tech toys and social media, and have become socially isolated and sit around all day playing with laptops and i-Phones. Yesterday, my wife Susan and I went over to Riverbend Farm on the Blackstone River Canal to walk. I’ve NEVER seen that beautiful park SO crowded with people out walking the trails – MANY of them with their kids! (I didn’t think children went outside to play anymore!). We had a lovely trek from Riverbend Farm down to the old Stanley Woolen Mill and back and saw more people along that treasure of a public park than I’ve ever seen before! Susan is a walker, and the day before she had been on the Milford Bike Trail – same thing – many people. (I’m not usually much of a “walker” – I’d probably drive the car on the bike trail if they allowed it!!).
It is important to remember that this is a momentary crisis – it is an illness that will eventually pass, and by then we will have learned more about it in preparation for the next possible “pandemic.” It is not a war like September 11, or a major economic collapse like 2008.
Many will get sick and most will recover. People will return to work, and business and commerce will pick up again, and probably be stronger than ever. The best we can do in the meantime is to follow the recommendations of our community and health leaders, be vigilant and caring for those who do get sick, and do everything we can so that when this passes, we can be ready to enjoy the life we’ve been accustomed to and it is there waiting to welcome us back. (Though some of us may discover we really enjoyed doing those activities we had long neglected and continue them into the future!)
One thing it seems that has ALWAYS gotten us through these times of distress and uncertainty and provided comfort is MUSIC!
Back in 2001, the musicians of the then only one year old Claflin Hill Symphony Orchestra gave a free “Concert for Humanity” in our Milford Town Hall Grand Ballroom on Sunday, September 23. It was what we could do as fellow citizens in a time of crisis – we don’t fly F-15 fighter jets or serve as “first responders” – we play music, and it’s what we could do on our part to help our neighbors.
Unfortunately, at the moment, our concert halls will be shuttered and silent and it’s really too bad, because in this season – our Twentieth Anniversary Season – we have been performing truly AMAZING concerts – the Orchestra has just exceeded itself night after night to truly make this year a memorable testament to what community can build together!
Yesterday, I would have normally spent 6 hours conducting our Claflin Hill Youth Symphonies students in preparation for their next concert performance but our host venue, MassBay Community College, has closed their facilities to outside organizations until the end of May. Now, a 6 hour conducting day can be something really grueling to look forward to on a Sunday afternoon, but it is always those amazing students that arrive every Sunday – with their bright, shining eyes and eager faces that energize me also. I was surprised how “lost” I felt yesterday, not having to go up to Framingham to get set up for rehearsals, not seeing those great kids come streaming into the building with their instruments, warming up, greeting each other, having fun and ready to take on the challenges of Tchaikovsky or Beethoven yet again this week. I almost felt like someone had amputated a part of me.
The true victims of this crisis are our children – who have had all sense of “normalcy” ripped away from them, and everything they have been working so hard and so long toward in this year suddenly stopped without any promise of completion or closure. Think of all of the kids in theater groups in schools, band festivals, scholastic competitions, sports events – all of this will become the year that never was, and many of these students are graduating seniors. They are being stripped of everything that a senior year culminates in and provides a sense of accomplishment and success.
Through the next days and weeks, CHSO will provide you with some “soul comforting music” – clips from this amazing season of YOUR orchestra that YOU have helped build – and just think of the anticipation and joy we will experience when we all meet again for that Season Finale!
The musicians of Claflin Hill and many other orchestras will be the hardest hit in the working populace – most of them are “free-lance” musicians and rely on their weekly gigs with orchestras throughout the New England region to provide income that they survive on. Concert after concert are being cancelled and there is no way any of these regional orchestras can compensate the musicians for lost work.
In the same sense, CHSO is halfway through our Annual Appeal at this moment, and although we have a momentary hiatus from public concerts, they will start again soon. Not to mention that all of our other expenses continue to require payment. (National Grid hasn’t told us we don’t have to pay our bills this month!).
We ask that you continue to support CHSO in our Annual Appeal so that we actually ARE able to continue and complete our season when this crisis has abated.
We all talk about “quality of life” both personally and as a community. CHSO is actually one of those entities in our society whose product could be considered the “purveying of quality of life!”
It would be a shame to survive COVID-19 only to live in a virtual cultural desert in the aftermath.
In the meantime, be well and safe, look in on your neighbors and we’ll all be together again soon.