Because Music (Uxbridge Cosmos Feb. 2020)

Dear readers, where do I start? You may not remember me. I’m your friendly neighbourhood jazz singer-slash-mother of three. Since you last read me, I and my family left my “Life in the Big City,” and moved back to Uxbridge; I have made another human, adding a third boy to my army; and I have lost an innumerable amount of brain cells. I admit when returning to the town of my sarcastic adolescence, I was slightly apprehensive, wondering if I had burned any Ux-bridges I would have to cross over again. But, thankfully, it seems, I wasn’t the bridge-burning type. In fact, I think I’m just entering my bridge-burning stage of life, so this may get interesting.  

Anyhoo, my busy days now are filled with caring for my boys – two that are school age and the third, my two-year old shadow. While herding these feral cats, I write lyrics and melodies, clanging away on a shocked and appalled 1908 piano I inherited with the century home we now inhabit. I’m also trying to maintain a singing voice that is more accustomed these days to a kind of air-splitting hospital orderly voice of authority (which, let’s face it, is more and more like Fran Drescher than Nurse Ratched, and no one is taking that seriously.) Vocal warm up generally entails, coaxing Drescher into chilling out with a torch-burning ballad…or a glass of wine for mummy (while cooking a dinner that no one will eat.) 

Between school pick-ups, drop-offs and singing gigs in the city, I actually get to go out and see live music from time to time –  the logistics made easier amidst the multiplying gaggle of kids by my partner being a gloriously devoted introvert. And for this, I am grateful not only for the chance to escape the asylum to talk to humans over the age of eight about anything other than farts, but also because I feel very strongly and deeply that taking in live music makes me a happier and healthier person and I believe it has the power to do that for every single person on this struggling planet.  

About a week ago, I went to hear a gig of reimagined, carefully curated songs from a most creative and perception-altering time in modern history, 1969. A friend and extremely gifted singer,  Genevieve Marentette with her extraordinary band (bassist George Koller, pianist Attila Fias , drummer Ben Wittman and flautist Bill McBirnie) blew my ever-loving head off and my heart out of my chest. It was a deeply-connected and playful, truly awesome concert. And that is not the first time I’ve felt this at a live music event.  

Now, I’m not a religious person, but music itself is sacred to me. Inspiration and light from humanity. I feel so lucky not only to experience the immense talent that this part of the world has to offer, in a local joint that supports it, but to humbly stand as a member of it. It fills my heart and brain and lifts my mood to see my friends succeed and share and have interesting and things to say and arresting ways of saying them. But, you don’t have to be a member of the music community to feel the same way. Who among us hasn’t had a total crap day only to completely turn it around by putting on a favourite song, exorcizing the bad feelings by dancing, head-banging, air-guitaring, finger-drumming, car-singing, showering-singing, eye-closing, running, or walking til we feel better? 

Now, think about that cherished, inspiring recording. As musicians, we continue to put out records because what would the world be like without being able to rock out to our jams while doing all those things I just mentioned? And we keep putting out records because musicians and composers want to move our craft, community and personal growth forward. But it is near impossible with the current streaming model that many of us use to be properly compensated for that immense amount of work and investment. And I really don't believe there is any going back at this point. Sadly. 

HOWEVER. What I experienced last week, watching my friends create something astounding reminded me, there is something unquantifiable that exists only in live performance. It has existed since the first person sang for the first groupie. It is an energy of a shared excitement with others present for the event and a suspended magical (I hate using that word, but) moment in history that you simply cannot capture in a recording unless YOU WERE THERE IN THE ROOM/HALL/AUDITORIUM/ABANDONED FACTORY. And no streaming service can get their hands on that. And - if it's done properly - live music helps musicians survive and feed their kids and fix their guitar and replace their old undies and buy toilet paper (and pay for recording!) 

So, what I'm saying is get out there and see live music. Something or someone you enjoy. Doesn't have to be the same stuff I love. Whatever turns your freaky crank. And not because you "want to support" but because that kind of experience and of intimately shared joy and sorrow is life-affirming and life-giving for you (and yes, your kids too) AND for the people you're seeing and hearing. And that should be part of everyone's life ON THE REGULAR. 

3 comments

  • gigi
    gigi fluxbridge ;)
    love you whit xxx

    love you whit xxx

  • Billy McB.
    Billy McB. Toronto
    I understand you completely, Whitney! (...And I understand your husband too!... :-)

    I understand you completely, Whitney! (...And I understand your husband too!... :-)

  • Whitney Ross-Barris
    Whitney Ross-Barris
    Love you guys! xo

    Love you guys! xo

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