Lisa Nelsen bloggar, 2:

Blog 6 June 2020

From behind my computer screen, I can look out of my window in my Green Room at the green of our close in my town. We’re in the middle of England, just about as far away from the coast as you can get on this island…funny that I’ve moved from The Prairies in landlocked Alberta to another bit of countryside without coastal views. It is, however, very beautiful and peaceful here…and feels very much like a safe little bubble.

I can see cloudy skies and quite a broad view from here. When I lived in Canada I had a magnificent vista of the valley where our farm was. And through my window in my iPad, phone and computer, I can see the world, and connect to so many friends and family. Although it’s been quite a change to my life, as to all our lives, I’m incredibly grateful for this window. To be able to spend time with people, to connect and share daily routines and opinions has kept my old enemy, homesickness, away most of the time.

In 1986 I’d moved from Canada to an industrial town near the Belgian border in the Netherlands to study at Brabants Conservatorium. English wasn’t spoken as freely there as it was in Amsterdam or Rotterdam, so I felt incredibly isolated. Missing connections with home was debilitating when I moved to The Netherlands, and it became a kind of depression for years. I would daydream constantly about being back in Canada, and what my family and friends were doing. It was quite a distraction from my flute practice. My flute professor despaired when I’d dissolve into tears in lessons. The cost of a 10 minute phone call was $25.00, and a letter took more than 2 weeks! Now, with the ease of mobile video calls, all of that as disappeared. I enjoy coffee with my mom most days. (By the way…we pronounce ‘mom’ like ‘mum’ in Canada)

For me with the advent of the internet, I’ve been able to more or less carry on with much of what I would be doing before the lockdown happened. I’m very much in touch with my mom in Canada, and my brother and sister in the USA. My flute teaching has increased, and events and flute festivals are happening and in planning stages for the British Flute Society, eFluteFestival and for my chamber ensemble coaching. In fact, last weekend my trio, Enigma14, gave it’s first online weekend chamber music course.

I play with several chamber ensembles here in the UK. Enigma14 is a flute, cello and piano trio and we’ve had all our performances and educational projects postponed (luckily not cancelled). One of our small chamber courses is held at Benslow Music Trust near London, and we have a few members of the trust who return each year. Their ages range from mid-thirties to 90, and although the level of ability varies, the enthusiasm and desire to learn outweighs most fears, and they return each time the course is offered.

Many of the courses at Benslow were cancelled over the last weeks, and we could see that the disappointment would hurt many of those participating; many were elderly and lived alone, others enjoyed seeing their friends under the musical umbrella of the the trust, and some new ones who’d booked wanted to share the learning of the pieces with others. Because courses were being offered from other institutions where we work, and online chamber coaching was being offered, we jumped in and suggested we do our weekend online.

With the able and overseeing eye of the director of music at Benslow, we managed to Zoom our way through two major trios, coaching individual parts, taking the other instrumentalists through sections by muting them and playing along, and also having an evening session (with a few glasses of favourite tipples) chatting about a couple of YouTube performances of the works. Well, we couldn’t have anticipated the reaction from the participants…it was a very emotional final session on the Sunday. And my wishes to give a platform to people who were perhaps bereft after the course was cancelled were fulfilled. It was successful on a much different level because, of course, we couldn’t all play together. But we studied the works in detail, slowly and

with much more deliberation than we may have done in person. We felt that we were together in another way as well. Although we couldn’t hear the participants much of the time, having to mute everyone while one of us or a participant played, they felt they were improving because they weren’t being judged or criticised…and they often felt that they improved because they were playing with us (professionals). Leading by example in a way…and improving when they allowed themselves to make mistakes and then focus on instructions rather than worrying about the mistakes they’d make.

My wish to connect again as a musician was realised last weekend through the course. I’m missing my ensembles terribly now…rehearsing and having coffee and the odd glass of wine… I’m finding another way to plan and plot new avenues for our other branches of music making. I’m finding it’s filling the void of creating music in some way, numbing my desire to communicate without words…in the language I know comes from a deeper part of me. With this window, I’m not going to be out of the loop, but well and truly being involved in engaging and keeping the initiative of these online connections.