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opinion

In the days and weeks ahead, if you read of orchestra and opera companies shuttering for the summer or longer, take a moment to feel the deep shock and pain that this is, for all of us. This is the pain I felt when I heard that the Victoria Symphony and Pacific Opera will no longer be open for the 2020-21 season.

The symphony and opera are places of freedom of expression and culture, where communities define their creativity and take pride in their humanness and the expression of it. They are places where listeners suspend the everyday and experience the imaginary possibilities that music conjures – soaring, transcending, escaping, enriching, beautiful possibilities. For a moment in time, life comes alive with potential, with richness, with meaning.

Our arts organizations are, along with sports teams and other community organizations, a deep part of our society. Still, our society has gone so far toward individuality that even before COVID-19 we had begun to detach ourselves from others. We had started to prefer texting to talking and were already starting to favour staying home rather than going out. We took for granted the treasures that awaited us but seemingly took just a little bit too much effort.

Tania Miller conducts a concert with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, B.C.Jeff Vinnick/The Globe and Mail

Now we understand what the perils of letting go are. What does it feel like to watch things alone on your screen? How we miss the joys of experiencing music collectively, while still recognizing that a piece of the performance was an intimate moment just for ourselves. Where else can we as individuals be part of something that is an “us”?

The artists that we have marvelled at – their talents, determination, virtuosity and awesomeness – have long inspired and, at times, propelled us into better versions of ourselves. How often have we reimagined our lives upon leaving a concert hall, filled with new thoughts and resolve?

In music, everyone is free, everyone is equal, everyone is fulfilling the greatest potentials of being human. With music shaping us, we become rich, expressive – yearning and reaching for quality and beauty in our lives. We understand things that we did not understand before. We think differently. Sometimes for days after a concert, there is no silence in our mind because the music lives on.

Are we prepared for the emptiness and silence that comes with no live music?

No matter what happens in the next weeks and months, let us not lose our belief in the power and necessity of music in our communities. Let us not sit idly by and watch our orchestras shutter without working tirelessly, when it is safe and possible, to do everything in our power to bring them back to their full potential – the potential to move and change us. As that happens, the full height and glory of our communities will return as well.

Let us recognize that losing the arts, music, theatre and opera, even for a moment, is a tragedy. Let us work together, let us help each other, as we unwaveringly commit to freedom of human expression and beauty in our lifetime. Stravinsky’s Firebird, rising anew from the ashes, is our inspiration and hope now.

Tania Miller was music director of the Victoria Symphony from 2003 to 2017 and conducts orchestras throughout Canada, the United States and Europe.

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