That may be the goofiest headline I’ve ever written.
I waited to post my review of 2021 until today for a couple of reasons, although the main one is simple.
2021 was not a normal year, not one where I could happily celebrate the achievements of artists. Not when there were so many times that the rules chanced, when performing artists had to take a break.
So I’m doing two things today on the day with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
You probably know what #BellLetsTalk is. To quote their own words, it’s
“a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada. “
How are you feeling?
I don’t type those words in expectation of an answer across the ether, so much as to encourage anyone reading the question to pause for a moment to ask it of themselves.
Earlier this week I posted this meme on social media. It seems apt to post it now.
What do you do to get through the day, to make yourself feel better?
Chances are there are many things you do. What I hope you might consider is the role the arts play in your mental health. If your day includes time when you listen to music, watch films, read books, chances are your wellbeing is based on the creativity of arts professionals in many diverse disciplines.
And at a time when our dependence upon the arts has never been clearer, the artists themselves are having difficulty. We’re coming up to the second anniversary of the pandemic.
I have a request. If you have an art-form you enjoy, that you would pay to see: please consider offering support. For example, if you would have been seeing the Canadian Opera Company, Opera Atelier, the National Ballet, Toronto Symphony Orchestra or Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, think about the money you’ve saved due to their cancellations. That money could have found its way to artists and companies to pay salaries and fees for artists. Many of them are hurting, from the losses that end up in the pockets of those of us who were not able to attend.
On this day when we’re to talk about mental health, think about what you do to preserve your mental health. You watch a favorite video, listen to a favorite song. Perhaps you look at a picture or even sing a tune. Consider that you might help someone with the money you saved by being unable to attend.
I do want to look back at 2021 briefly. Every time I thought we were coming back, we had an interruption. The arbitrary nature of these abrupt reversals can be upsetting. Speaking of things we do for mental health, I recall hearing that we should distinguish between those things that are or are not beyond our control. No point cussing at the weather (too cold? Put on a jacket or move to Arizona). COVID is a bit like that, but has been less predictable. It’s still so new.
So I simply want to thank the artists who thrilled me this year. I did two great interviews with artists I admire. Yes that’s far fewer than usual, because of course there were fewer shows to promote.
I jumped at the chance to interview Doug MacNaughton in the summer.
And later I heard about the show MixTape from Zorana Sadiq, so I asked her for an interview.
The MixTape opening night felt like a restoration, a full house for the show as live performance was coming back!
Ditto for the Toronto Symphony concerts in the autumn. Even if capacity was reduced the shorter concerts in a half-empty hall with a small orchestra were magical.
And there was the Tafelmusik Orchestra and chorus concert before Christmas.
I don’t apologize for how few shows I’ve seen. I’ve been super-cautious since 2020, because I’m one of the caregivers for my 100 year old mother. As I was already old enough for a full pension, I retired from my dayjob to lessen the hazard to her and my family. Yes, I know that in this review I’m talking as much about myself as the shows I saw. But that’s always true in any review, except it might be more transparent right now. I’m as much a participant in the mental health conversation, confused about who I am in this weird purgatory as any artist. I last went to church in January 2020, missing the music but also missing the fellowship, the sanctuary. Theatres and concert halls also offer that warm fuzzy feeling as a by-product of the performance.
Virtual is better than nothing I suppose but I miss live performance.
Think about what you’ve missed. Over the next few weeks if omicron wanes as expected, theatres and concerts will gradually return. Remember how much you’ve depended upon the arts for your sanity.
They could use your help.