Toronto Chamber Choir Blog
August 22, 2021
Author: Natalie Clark
Embracing New Possibilities
Sheltered by the green canopy of elms and oaks, surrounded by fragrant lilacs and wild roses, my childhood home was a busy arts studio where we learned from our wise and accomplished older generations.
The rooms of our house were filled with music from all eras and from all around the world, and people from all cultures were in our circle of friends. We sang every day. Music home studies were set in the context of human history. We were swept up in enriching lessons about classical, romantic, baroque, and 20th century music, complete with musical analysis and historical context, and with themes played on the piano and sung. Music from all cultures was played with equal passion — and at the same full volume! The city itself hosts a giant two-week festival every year, showcasing the culture, music, dance, and foods of the numerous resident cultures, to create a grand multicultural celebration. Music is for everyone.
My work in art and nature took me out on the land in the prairie provinces, BC, and the Arctic. I also work in management to create open doors for people by contributing to training and professional opportunities in the arts, environmental sciences, and other fields of work. Simultaneous engagement in these areas requires the adaptability to travel among these different worlds.
In the Arctic, the land is wild and vast. One winter, many caribou were near town. I journeyed every day by snow machine over the curving snowdrifts to spend time with the caribou, until the soft, silent, pink and blue sunset at 3 p.m.
The geography of my days took me on a journey between my town in the Arctic and the city of Toronto, a radical pairing of places. Back and forth, I travelled on points to teach painting in the south. From a tiny hamlet surrounded by wild ancient tundra with herds of caribou and muskox and swirling blizzards, I journeyed to the centre of Canada’s largest city.
There, I could see from my city window beautiful geometric gardens growing perched on condominium rooftops.
So far from home. Singing in choirs became a way to express my quest to connect all the different aspects of my life. So thrilling to revisit the music from my family home.
The Toronto Chamber Choir became my favourite choir, with its fine musicianship and commitment to exploring the rich, unfolding story of music and human culture. The Toronto Chamber Choir is a beautiful banquet for the artist’s soul.
When the pandemic began, the impossible happened. Paradoxically, all these worlds came closer together. Suddenly, geography was no longer a barrier, and everyone was reaching out from their own isolation. Suddenly, it was possible to be at home in the Arctic and participate in Zoom choir rehearsals with friends so far away in Toronto. This situation created new experiences for our choir.
Being able to participate in the choir from my own home, on my own terms, was a profound experience. Everything connected. Quiet communion with music over the summer brought about integration and the realization of singing’s potential. My quest was fulfilled.
The multimedia approach during our TCC online rehearsals naturally united the disciplines. We learned some incredibly beautiful pieces of music, sang together, made recordings. Without the pressure of upcoming concerts, we had time to talk together about important aspects of music including well-being and belonging. This nourished the feelings of friendship in the choir. Looking forward to these joyous gatherings made it possible to get through the week’s challenges.
The pandemic is causing immense loss, pain, and grief. The solutions that people are developing during this time have incredible potential for supporting healing for human society. We will continue to work together responsibly, innovating new approaches to continue supporting and inspiring each other.
In the early days of pandemic isolation, a video from Italy was put online. People were singing and playing musical instruments for each other across the courtyard, from their tiny apartment balconies. Through music and friendship, they were defying the separation and terror, and encouraging each other to stay strong and connected. This video, filmed by neighbours, encouraged people all around the world.
This kind of story inspired the TCC as we figured out our next steps. We continued making music. We embraced the possibilities of the internet. We reached out across the city, the country, and the oceans to keep the choir connected and to expand our community. We experimented with making recordings long distance, recognizing the new avenues that are developing for music presentation.
This great expansion of the possibilities for how people assemble and communicate is highly significant. We suddenly have the opportunity to let barriers fall away and to create more inclusive public institutions. At this moment in Canada’s development as a country, this is a very timely opportunity.
Recently, a friend in the choir told me with great joy the exact number of people whom she had hugged over the last week. Until very recently, it was not possible to hug friends and family because of the dangers of COVID-19 transmission. We don’t take this for granted any longer. Now, when we have the opportunity to safely hug, we take great joy in this gesture of affection.
New opportunities are now available for the Toronto Chamber Choir’s quest to support equity, diversity, and inclusion. We are now at a time and place where it is safe here to treat all people with equity and to include everyone. We cannot take this for granted. We will embrace this opportunity fully, and with joy.
Our tradition of singing together in person has been enriched by our new experiences over the past year. The TCC created a greater diversity of experiences to offer to its members — and, potentially, to offer to its audience! It will be exciting to see what the Toronto Chamber Choir does in the next few years with our new opportunities for music and friendship.
Natalie is a mezzo-soprano in the TCC. She is an ecologist, artist, teacher, and program manager. For many years, she commuted on points from Nunavut to teach painting in Toronto. During this time, she sang in several Toronto choirs, each with its own unique musical focus. Her ongoing interest in contributing to creating open doors for Nunavumiut recently brought her back to program management. She is maintaining her TCC connections while working in her home town in Nunavut.