Friday, February 18, 2022

The Beginning of Happiness

Dear readers,

When a fellow live theatre goer shouted at me in the Fall 2021, "another survivor!!!" I chuckled at the statement. It took a moment before I realized that it was no exaggeration. I wish to acknowledge the hardship, adaptation, revision, planning, cancellations, equipment, protocols, and more that artists have had to navigate during this pandemic. We are, indeed, survivors. In these past two years, I have acquired black singer masks, more home recording equipment, attended zoom rehearsals when I don't feel well enough to attend in-person rehearsals, and rapid test before rehearsals. At this point in time, seeing singing faces covered with masks is the norm. I remember at one of my first rehearsals back in June 2021, I marvelled at how heads are attached to bodies, they're not just heads floating in a virtual meeting frame. How was it that 25 other bodies arrived at the same time and place to sing with me? It was such a sensory overload to hear that much sound but a welcome change to feel the energy of singers around me again.

Rehearsal with Good Women in July 2021
I have never been a fan of learning the hard way. I welcome the past wisdom and advice of those who have walked the path before me. However, these past 2 years felt different as we were all figuring out how to continue with Arts creation with fluctuating pandemic restrictions and risk levels. My collaborative project with FEMME Vocal Quartet and Good Women Dance Collective was no different as we cancelled our live show, "The Beginning of Happiness," weeks before the premiere. It was a project we had all been rehearing since July 2019 and planning even before that time. Amongst the artistic core in the Spring 2021, we decided that a film would be a realistic and safe way of seeing through the project. Director of Photography, Tamarra Lessard, assembled a crew for us to film in August 2021. There were many logistics to consider in adapting the live music + dance show to a film. Park permits needed to be obtained for evening filming, costumes had to be adapted to be used in water, and most significant, the score was shortened from one hour to 30 minutes. The film is now available for streaming from February 17-24, 2022. Half of the proceeds will be donated to WIN House.

The Beginning Happiness Performers and Crew for August 2021 filming

Recording at Silver Studios in May 2021 
During our recording sessions in May-July 2021, FEMME recorded the entire one hour work at Silver Studios. All the singers recorded their parts separately to stay covid safe and the recording engineers, Caleb Nelson and Amelia Chan, later layered the tracks to form the ensemble sound. This was possible since we sang to click tracks programmed to specific tempos and heard the playback of the other voices who had recorded their parts already.

My ears are greeted with the reunited sound of FEMME once again as listen to the album writing this post. The music is such sensitive and informed writing for treble voices. For a work that explores and reflects upon issues of domestic violence, there is a healing beauty within the musical storytelling. There is such a wide range of vocal textures created ranging from the warm feel of love to breathless unrest. After having this work living in my tablet for three years, I am so grateful that this music gets to live in the world. There is a wonderful sense of closure to be able to release this music and invite listeners in.

FEMME Vocal Quartet during Aug 2021 filming

The album is available for streaming and download from Bandcamp. We suggest a price of $10 for download but will gratefully accept donations above that amount. Proceeds from the album will go towards FEMME's continued work to amplify a contemporary female perspective within choral music through new commissions and performance.