Thursday, May 19, 2022

Here’s to 2022 & a re-birth for the arts

By Dave Babbitt – Special to the Sydenham Current

Thank goodness we’ve finally tossed the 2021 calendar in the trash!

But each New Year provides an opportunity for positive change you say? Keep reading.

Every day I’m granted another day on earth, I’ve always attempted to make it as positive and productive as I can, but life as we are now experiencing it, is finally challenging my patience.

Regular readers know that I’ve steered around the “issue at hand” (I cannot even bring myself to say the word) other than lamenting the situations’ affect on the Arts.

To be clear, know that I understand that there have been devastating effects on things far more important than the Arts, but that is what I’m charged with writing about in this column, and what I’m largely involved in.

I don’t discuss the disease here because nobody cares what I think, it doesn’t matter what I think, and regardless of any position I might take, someone would end up angry with me.

Due to “the disease” however, Christmas just past, snuck up on me like never before which I attribute to the fact that once again, there were very few events to fill my calendar in the weeks leading up to it.

Typically, there would be rehearsals, several concerts to be involved in, local concerts to attend, touring concerts to attend, carolling, friends over to visit, Christmas parties, parades to see, and so on, but of course, very little of that happened.

For me, my Christmas season typically begins mid-September as our band gathers again after our summer break and we immediately begin rehearsing for our annual Christmas concerts.

If the truth be told, Christmas occupies a significant part of each Spring as well as I will soon start perusing hundreds of band scores, looking for new material for next Decembers’ concerts. (hopefully)

Once I find suitable music, it is usually ordered before we break for the summer as it can take months to arrive.

Once it arrives, parts are assigned, sheet music is stamped, sorted, and prepared to hand out.

Sheet music doesn’t just show-up on our stands and the task of preparing it is very large.

Thank goodness Rebecca Rysoever, our incredible Music Librarian looks after all of that, and as soon as she has the Conductors score’s, she gives them to me so that I can begin to pour over them before we meet.

While none of that has occurred in the past two years, my senses are starting to indicate to me that life may begin to normalize as we move through 2022 and MAYBE, Christmas 2022 will be a great one!

If this happens, my recent experience tells me that the public will be all-over their re-gained freedom.

Before Christmas, several of our band members attended a Christmas concert presented by the Chatham Concert band at the Capitol Theatre in Chatham.

This was a significant event for several reasons.

Firstly, it was the very first entertainment event that I have had the opportunity to attend since March of 2020.

Secondly, I was able to attend the concert with quite a few friends and fellow musicians from our Wallaceburg Concert Band.

Whenever we gather, fun happens!

Thirdly, the fact that the crowd was largely within a demographic that has been more cautious and more vulnerable to the “disease at hand” was another very positive indicator.

In other words, it was especially great to see the “older crowd” emerging from isolation.

Lastly and most importantly, the very large size of the crowd at the concert was an incredibly positive indicator of the pent-up desire of people to get out and get back to life as we once knew it.

As it turned out, the concert came within a window of opportunity that has since, once again been closed, but it buoyed my optimism that once our own band gets back to work, that an audience will be waiting for us with open arms.

Before the lockdown began, our band had established a goal of expanding our reach beyond the walls of Wallaceburg and had started down that path.

In the Spring of 2019, we reached out to our neighbours in Port Lambton and then in December of 2019, we took our band on the road to present a Christmas concert in Dresden which was wonderfully received.

Both concerts were well-attended, but I had a greater long-term goal and that was an opportunity to play in the Chatham Capitol Theatre.

Knowing that the Chatham Concert Band typically offered a Christmas concert on a every other year basis, I thought that maybe we could fill the void on a year they don’t play a Christmas concert.

In being completely honest however, my greater goal was simply to have an opportunity to perform in a REAL concert hall, on a large stage, with nice seating for an audience, and most importantly with great acoustics.

In Wallaceburg, WDSS is the only indoor venue large enough to house both our band and an audience, but as appreciative as we are to have access to the school, it’s still a gymnasium that we perform in and there are several limitations including poor acoustics, lighting challenges, the need to both set-up and tear-down all of the seating, time issues, and the inability to control the temperature (i.e. comfort level) for the audience.

However, rental rates for a venue such as the Capitol are prohibitive (especially if we want to offer a free concert as we always do) but as the Capitol Theatre has occasional “dark” nights so we made some inquiries about availability and the possibility of using the facility without charge.

Through the efforts and co-operation of the Capitol Theatre management as well as the mayor and his staff, we “got on the bill” and were scheduled to perform a Christmas concert at the Capitol Theatre on Dec 5, 2020… but alas, that didn’t happen.

We’re now hoping that 2022 will afford us the opportunity to “play the Capitol” at Christmas but that’s a discussion we’ll have to start all over again.

Imagine being able to attend our Wallaceburg concert then travelling to Chatham to take-in a completely different one!

Now I’m getting too excited and ahead of myself.

The point of my writing this week has been to indicate that I’m feeling positive about the coming year for the Arts.

In fact, I’m a bit worried that there might be SO much to choose from that people might be torn as to what to take-in.

Our Wallaceburg Arts Council is all-over this too as we’ve been discussing plans to re-fire our concert series as well as other ideas.

Be positive, and here’s to 2022 and hopefully a re-birth for the Arts!

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