Suzanne was playing in the orchestra in the National Concert Hall just before Christmas for a children’s show called “This Way to Christmas”. I brought our daughters, aged 6 and 8, along to the first show, which started at 10.30 am.
We’d been to the show in previous years, a few times. I’d even played in the orchestra for it myself a couple of times a few years back. So we knew what to expect, a good bit of fun, some nice Christmas tunes, an appearance by Santa Claus himself (the actual real one I think!) and finishing off with that lovely Christmas animation, The Snowman, with the music played live by the orchestra. It’s a nice show, if a little loud and chaotic because the audience is 80% kids under 10.
This year, though, after a break of a year I was really struck by how magical the whole thing was. The orchestra sounded amazing, the dancers were brilliant, the narrator was warm and funny, and the lighting, the fake falling snow and all the little touches set the scene beautifully. I was affected so profoundly by the show that I shed a few tears. The kids didn’t notice, they just went along with the whole thing and enjoyed the show, but for me, it was definitely an emotional experience.
I realised that I hadn’t actually been to a concert since before the pandemic. I’d played in a few, which, of course, has its own set of feelings, but it takes so much concentration to play in an orchestra that sometimes you don’t get to experience the music in such a direct way, compared to being an audience member.
So I was sort of overcome with the emotion of what we’ve lost during the course of this pandemic. These experiences of live performances, of being together in a large group witnessing the music as it pours forth from the real, living, present musicians. We can, of course, listen to and enjoy music at home, but there is nothing so profound as when we are present to hear the music being created in real-time.
But I also realised that I hadn’t noticed just how much I’d missed it. It was only when I experienced this live performance once again that I felt its power to move me once again. Out of sight, out of mind maybe. I don’t know.
And so it set me thinking about what other things we’ve had to sacrifice since the beginning of this pandemic. Live theatre, live sport, live gigs in pubs, clubs, and other venues, family get-togethers, drinking and dancing and singing, funerals so we can comfort each other, weddings so we can celebrate together, meals together without the stilted protocols that force us to stay apart even when we’re together, travelling unencumbered to other countries with no guilt as to whether we should be doing it or not, going to a packed yoga class, or a class at the gym, or running a 5K or a 10K or a marathon with 20,000 other people, all in it together. There are college students who hardly know their classmates when they should be forming relationships that will last for life. There are small children whose parents are afraid to invite other children into their homes to play. There are sick people whose neighbours can’t check in on them for fear of making them sicker. All of these things have disappeared without us fully missing them all, and yet, when we get to do them again our hearts will rejoice and we’ll realise how much we needed them all along in order to feel like an actual human being.
For me, music has played a big part in my life since I was very young and so it’s natural that experiencing live music for the first time in almost two years would have a profound effect, but for all of us, there’s something that we’re missing. It’s probably easier not to think about the thing that we’re missing most but, when it does come back we’ll all shed those tears. We’ll all ask ourselves how come we didn’t realise how much we missed that thing. And maybe we’ll all appreciate the little things in life again, shorn of our cynicism and ready to embrace a full life again as we emerge from our bunkers.
We’re not there yet, and the news can be wholly depressing, but we will get there and we might even be better for the experience.