As we edge out of February and creep into March, many of us will be casting our minds back and reflecting on what will soon be a full year since the coronavirus really began to impact on us in Scotland and the first lockdown implemented. For me, it will very soon be a year to the day since my last live gig and looking back on that night on 6th March in Inverness’s Market Bar with our band Dorec-a-belle, we could not have begun to guess what lay ahead of us.
As always in the Market, it was an evening of fun and craic, folk singing along with us, lots of dancing and generally a great night, but looking back now I realise how much we took the sociable fun of playing music together very much for granted. And how I miss it!
Yes, I’ve done some online spots and short videos for my work, and we played a live Facebook concert, streamed from the decking of our saxophone player’s garden way back in August, when we were able to gather outdoors socially distanced with up to eight people (how outlandish does that sound now?!). Lots of musician friends have done the same, many much more technically elaborate affairs than ours, as this is all any of us could do in the circumstances. But none of it has felt like the real thing, of playing for a live in-the-flesh audience.
It feels somehow like a vicarious, substitute experience and this is not to take away from the performances of others at all – I have hugely enjoyed numerous online concerts which have succeeded in being close-up, intimate, and full of warmth. But musicians long for that special connection with an audience, where you get reaction, feedback, laughs, appreciation, and whether you’re playing high-octane up-tempo tunes to get folk on the floor and dancing, or songs of gentle reflection, the thing we’re all aiming for is an emotional response. That special moment of connectedness with other human beings.
However, lack of connectedness has been a feature of life since last March and the music world is certainly not exceptional. Seeing loved ones through a window or family, teachers, students and colleagues via Zoom, is the same kind of second-hand experience that does not match up to the real thing.
Given everything that has happened and how badly so many people’s lives, education and livelihoods have been affected, the anniversary of covid_19 will be a strange and sombre one for all. But ever the optimist, I am certain that, one year on, change is in the air. Some children are back in school, a new cohort is being vaccinated and cases are reducing.
We may be wearing masks for some time and goodness knows when we’ll get the chance to play live music again or enjoy a crowded gig, but that will come round in time. We just need to be patient!
(First published by Highland News & Media 26th February 2021)