Siege Diaries 3/18/2020

Brookfield Place on February 27, on the way back home from the Schumann Quartett performance just three weeks ago.

I’ve written about my Tuesday tradition around listening to the Shostakovich 4th Symphony before–how it came about because I discovered that it was just the right length for my train ride home from downtown.  I’ve even written a blog during one of these sessions.  The association has become so strong that I’ve become adverse to listening to this one piece on any other day but Tuesday while in transit.  So when I found the time yesterday evening to keep up with the tradition, I couldn’t help be buffeted with emotions.

It was only a week ago that I’d ridden the train for the last time and observed my little ritual.  It was just a little over six months ago that I made my way down to Nashville to hear the piece performed live, not long after my trip to Montreal. Subsequently, I’d traveled to Cleveland and Grand Rapids for other performances, as well as enjoying a steady stream of local concerts,  never guessing at the time that a good portion of all of the plans I’d made for the year would come to naught.  By the end of February, I was a little worried.  By my birthday on March 5, the situation was becoming more and more worrisome as I attended the James Rhodes Beethoven performance. I decided that day not to attend a planned concert by the New Orford String Quartet on March 8 as the piece I had wanted to hear had been dropped.  I attended an SCA event on March 7, and things seemed fairly normal, and a gaming day the following afternoon.

And then, the following Tuesday–that same Tuesday where I rode the train home for the last time–the bottom began to fall out. By Thursday the 12th I had decided not to risk travel to the States, and by a couple of days later all my concerts in March and April had been cancelled.  It was that fast.  The wonderful world of live classical concerts that I’d been enjoying intensely for the past two years was just gone.  Game days and SCA events vanished as well.  Suddenly, my world shrank to the confines of my house and a few stores within a radius of less than 10 km.  The rest of the world now was confined to my computer or TV screen, or the radio.  And the desire to mourn is strong, and it is real.


The music remains. It cannot be taken away.  It’s in my memories, but it’s also right at my fingertips.  I have CDs and iTunes and YouTube and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall. I just received an email from the Montreal Symphony, who will be streaming performances nightly–and maybe, just maybe, they’ll play the performance of the Shostakovich 13th Symphony I didn’t hear–the one where the singer wasn’t ill.

And I realize what an absolute privilege it has been in the last two years–and, indeed, for most of my life–to have gone to so many wonderful performances, to have had the agency to travel where I wanted, when I wanted (within reason, of course).   The two concerts in March were to be repeats of favourite works that I heard in January, 2019.  I haven’t asked for refunds for any of my tickets–I figure that the arts are going to need a little extra support in these next months.  And I will dream of a future beyond the darkness, where, as in springtime, the tender shoots of live orchestral music will emerge to bloom again.

In the meantime, the music will, as it has always done, help me mourn what has been and might have been when we yet are ignorant of what will be.


During today’s walk, I was musing on the parallels between the current situation and WW2, especially as concerns manufacturing.  Both in the United States and Canada, during the war many private industries were ordered to convert their manufacturing activities to those focused on supplying the war effort, essentially nationalizing these business during that period. It’s probably most associated with the motor vehicle industry, but it was much wider than that, and it was partially designed to keep companies from engaging in war profiteering.  This was not always an easy process (especially in the early days of the war (or in the US’ case, before they formally entered), but the unprecedented nature of the war trumped concerns about government interfering in private industry.  I had been curious whether there were any thoughts of taking similar measures in the current crisis.  I heard today that several Ontario businesses were already looking at this; at least one distillery has already started producing high-proof alcohol for disinfecting purposes, and premier Doug Fort mentioned others in his press conference today.  Likewise, apparently similar steps are being considered in the US.   Meanwhile, in Italy, especially hard-hit in the current process, volunteers managed to reproduce a valve needed for treatments using 3-D printing for just about $1 (as opposed to its usual cost of $11,000.  The manufacturer’s response?  They threatened a lawsuit.  I suspect this new world in which we find ourselves may mean that such lawsuits will be laughed out of court once this crisis is resolved.

While I am still hugely worried and anxious about all of this, I am seeing the signs that Canada is doing what’s needed to help people through the crisis, from increasing testing and increasing hospital capacity to supporting individuals and businesses through the dark hours.  I have seen very little evidence of Canadians carping about people not deserving the money, or that the government should step away, or espousing conspiracy theories. Instead, (the odd toilet paper hoarder aside) I am hearing stories of kindness, of community, of the resolve to get through this together and leave no one behind. This is the kind of quiet resolve that has famously served Canadians so well through crucibles such as Vimy Ridge.

My social schedule, interestingly enough, is starting to fill. I have board games to play with my husband–we’ve just picked out a few for the next couple of days and the weekend. Last night, I attended a virtual SCA meeting–it was wonderful to see familiar faces, and to complain about pesky squirrels and trash pandas, geek about projects, and just hear the voices of my friends.  If all goes well, I’ll attend two virtual Toastmasters meetings tomorrow.  Even at work, I am in the first week of a new assignment, getting up to speed and putting together plans of how I can lend my skills to organizing and leading some of the workstreams on this large project.  It’s times like this I realize even though I am an introvert, I do value the time with my close friends, and look forward to it.  It’ll just have to be virtual for awhile.