If you are a musician used to playing with a band, your options during a pandemic are few. Fortunately, technology can bring both a band’s members and their audience together, albeit in a different way.
The Muskoka Concert Band (MCB) was forced to stop playing together in March, just days before a planned St. Patrick’s Day concert. They soon realized that their summer season, which involves one or two community performances per week from June through August, would have to be cancelled as well.
But when you love music, you find a way.
The band usually plays “O Canada” for the annual July 1 celebration at Muskoka Heritage Place. Instead, they each recorded their individual parts and MCB music director, Fran Harvey, stitched them together into one video. They created another video for Remembrance Day and two for Christmas: “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and “Sleigh Ride”.
“I’ve learned a lot about software,” she says with a laugh. “You have to take every single individual part and put it in and try to get it all to line up… the learning curve was straight up. It takes quite a long time to put it together. ‘Sleigh Ride’ took me five days.”
It likely takes each musician just as long to record their part, notes Harvey, one that they feel is good enough to submit. “We don’t play perfectly every time, but they want one that is perfect to send you. These are community musicians and they are doing such an amazing job of putting it together.”
Harvey would normally conduct each performance and while the videos are similar to conducting, “because you have the opportunity to put things together”, she has also had the chance to play. On “Sleigh Ride”, she played a trumpet part, and on “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, she played a trombone part.
The response from both band members and the community has been positive, says Harvey. “Hopefully it’s keeping the band name in the community eye for when we get back [to performing]… The band is really enjoying the opportunity to play, even though they can’t do it together. I mean this is part of our social fabric, both as individuals and a community. We can’t do it together right now for so many reasons and it’s a very important social and community aspect for so many players. At least we’re connected.”
The band members who have been able to participate in the videos are:
Flute – Karen Richards, Neil Hutchinson
Oboe – Laura Rosenfield
Clarinet – Rick Lamoureux, Kim Barlow, Marjorie Hall
Sax – John Selvey, Steve Richards, Sharon Wallace, Steve Weinberg, Joe Alfano
Trumpet – Neil Barlow, Mark Clairmont, Tony Lennie
Horn – Diane Harrop, Carol Gibson, Jane Haapiseva
Trombone – Time Rice, Merrill Perrett, Bill O’Neill
Euphonium – Rob Payne, Bonnie Parkhill
Tuba – Kim Hawn
Bass – Gerry Gerhart
Percussion – Kim Barlow
The band welcomes new members, Harvey adds. MCB has members ranging in age from teens to nonagenarians.
“There’s a place for everybody in this band, both virtually and live. And the technology of doing it is not onerous—we have lots of people who will help to sort you out if anyone is interested in playing,” says Harvey. “We are just a fun community group that are trying to keep things as normal as possible for our community… We play a little bit of everything.”
For more information about joining the band, email email@example.com.
The band will likely begin working on something new in January for a Valentine’s collection. “We don’t know when we’ll be able to get back to playing live, so we’re scoping out the next opportunities,” says Harvey.
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