What strange times we all live in. It was only a month ago my piano trio travelled back to Europe from a tour in the US and Canada, with COVID-19 just a small news story in a faraway land. Fast forward four weeks and the world is in lockdown and concerns for the safety and wellbeing of family and loved ones is our priority. Sadly, it takes times like these to offer one a real sense of perspective in life. Only weeks ago I witnessed an airline passenger berating a stewardess for a 30-minute flight delay. What would one give now to be able to move around freely? It makes that passenger's complaints all seem rather trivial.
I live in the beautiful Austrian city of Salzburg. We have not been as badly affected here as our close neighbours in Italy. Despite people feeling relatively safe here, the effects of self-isolation are all too evident. Cooped up at home we are all missing our music, sport and live entertainment but it has been a time to reflect and to draw some positives from these testing times. We all recognise the individual who does not like their job and whose work brings little or no joy to either themselves or others. In this respect, I am so very lucky. As a musician current times have only served to reinforce why I love my job and why culture matters. Musicians and artists indeed live a precarious existence at the best of times and are usually among the first to lose income and security when the economy suffers. I have many friends that are struggling to make ends meet only weeks into lockdown. We do not save lives like our hero doctors, or do essential work that keeps the world turning with some modicum of familiarity.
However, people are lonely, isolated and feeling cut off. This is where music can make a difference. The footage coming out of Italy showing people playing music from their balconies to entertain their fellow neighbours is extremely touching. The neighbourhoods spontaneously singing from their windows, offer a moment of respite from the uncertainty and fear they are confronted with daily. The power of music has never been more evident.
Technology has been godsent through this time but people are missing something more human and primitive. Are there many things more primordial than singing along with our fellow neighbours?.. Why we are driven to this as humans is something of a mystery but when it occurs it feels intuitive and natural to our core. The catharsis felt when singing your heart out is the reason why I play the cello for my profession. What a pleasure it is to see others naturally finding their way to this same process of healing and expression.
So I implore you all to do the following. Take some time each day to turn up your radio and have a thoroughly good sing. Sing like you are in the shower and nobody is listening because it feels great! Sing out of your window with no fear of embarrassment and see which long-forgotten neighbour pokes their head out to have a look. You might be surprised to find that instead of being subjected to a strange glance and a polite request to shut up, people might join you in a song from across the street. Let's rediscover the healing power of music, so once COVID-19 has passed the world can emerge a more beautiful place than before. Keep singing and stay safe everyone.