If you happened to be walking through Sarah Spring’s neighbourhood on the evening of Friday, December 11, you may have been treated to some surprisingly festive sounds of the season coming from her backyard, beneath garlands and strings of glowing, twinkly lights.
Normally, at this time of year, Spring’s piano students perform in a holiday recital at Trinity United Church with their family members in attendance. Of course, with the number of students Spring has, this was impossible under the current pandemic restrictions. Instead of cancelling the concert, she considered if there was another safe way to celebrate without resorting to a virtual option.
“I had the vision of students playing piano outside under twinkly lights in a winter setting, and I fell in love with the idea!” says Spring. “I chose to do the outdoor recital because I think it is important to create joyous, real-life experiences for our youth in a safe and respectful way right now.”
Spring firmly believes in the importance of her students having the opportunity to play in front of an audience. “Performance is a good motivating factor in students learning their pieces, and I didn’t want them to miss out on that this year.”
Gathering limits in both the Orange/Control and Red/Restrict zones for outdoor social gatherings is 25 people. Spring was careful to keep her numbers below this, and to not only comply with all the public health guidance on physical distancing, but take her precautions even further, striving to ensure the safety of her students, families, and the community.
“The students were divided up into groups to keep numbers within COVID regulations,” says Spring. “Families were assigned to one bale of straw each, staggered around the property, to ensure social distancing in the audience. The performer sat with their family.” The straw benches were situated almost twice the distance apart as mandated by regulations. Masks were worn for extra caution. After each performer played, all surfaces they touched were sanitized, and students sanitized their hands before and after performing.
The students played on Spring’s amplified electric piano on her deck, illuminated by the festive lights above. There were familiar holiday selections like “Jingle Bells”, “Up on the Housetop”, and “Linus and Lucy” from A Charlie Brown Christmas, as well as classical favourites such as Beethoven’s “Für Elise”. The weather cooperated with mild temperatures hovering above the freezing mark, but families and performers were prepared regardless.
“My students practised their pieces, dressed warmly, and performed beautifully,” says Spring. “I think the families were happy to have something to safely participate in during this COVID holiday season.”
Families’ responses to the evening, the performances, and in particular the setting, were united in praise, begging the question: would this become a tradition, even after the pandemic?
“I wanted the recital to be a memorable event that celebrates music while rising to the occasion the best way we can during this time,” says Spring. “I felt this would create more joy and excitement for my students and their families.”
Clearly the students and their families shared the same sentiment as Spring: “I thought the concert was magical.”
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