As young people, we sought the comforting feeling of “home”—even if that feeling was not found in our literal homes: curling up in a favorite blankie, cuddling with a pet, or giggling with a best friend. Growing up, many people found that place of safety making music and art in choirs, bands, orchestras, and theater ensembles. These groups were where we learned to process our own thoughts and emotions—where we learned the boundaries of safety, friendship, and the wonder of creating performances together. One of the reasons I became a conductor was to create an environment to provide others with that feeling, that space, that experience. Once the realities of adulthood set in, there are few and precious spaces where we can join together with vulnerability to explore and express the feelings that we may otherwise hold in or lose touch with. Creating art together is a salve for our collective psyche that gives us rest in a fast-paced world.
Community music ensembles—and especially GALA—create a unique kind of camaraderie. Our differences fall away as we work together to perfect a ringing chord or synchronize an impactful lyric. Our similarities ring out when we find a message that hits home. We spend months together in preparation and anticipation until we can finally deliver a moving performance to our loyal friends and fans. In that space and time, we experience a shared moment that cannot be replicated. It reminds us of our humanity and our innate need for a creative outlet.
In the preparation process during the course of any given season, we see each other through major life events…births, deaths, divorces, career changes, major health challenges, and more. For many of my choristers, it’s the only time they have each week to check their daily stressors at the door while we create something beautiful together. At the end of our rehearsals, it is our time to share good news and challenges, when we would typically circle up and hold hands in support of one another.
As we learn to cope with changing day to day realities, we are struggling together to find our new (if temporary) normal. We explore the edges of connecting a different way, with laughing and crying in our virtual meetings and rehearsals. Amidst it all, we collectively feel a heavy sense of loss. We grieve the loss of what regularly brings us together, challenges us, and soothes our souls. We fear stepping into the unknown time and space that keeps us apart without our security blanket of togetherness that takes us out of the world for a brief moment each time we raise our voices.