Eight official weeks into staying safe at home and cocooning so how are we all doing?
Eight weeks of banana bread? Sourdough anyone?! Any new yoga poses? Other new skills? Or just simply staying afloat?
Well for me it’s eight weeks of being billeted about in a sea of emotions, days of inspiration, days of none, peaks and troughs, spells in the doldrums, which is ironic given that 2020 is officially the Year of Coast and Waters.
This was supposed to be my year for ‘showing off’ a newly created audio visual piece commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage as part of their celebration of the sea and marine life. I worked for months scoping ideas, then writing the music for *’Message in a Bottle’ – a piece exploring themes of love, hope, migration, ocean currents, environmental impact, sea creatures and our connections to the sea. It was daunting and exciting all at the same time; stepping out from my more familiar comfort zone as a supporting musician to lead something, be totally responsible for it and the bonus part, to work with some amazing artists and musicians to boot. When we finally got to premiere it at Celtic Connection’s Coastal Connections day it felt great and like the start of a journey in sharing our music and celebration of the sea. I was so excited to be working in a new team of lovely, talented folk. We were going to be making an album, online content and heading for Heb Celt, Skye’s Fèis an Eilein & Orkney amongst others locations before the ‘new normal’ hit.
I know many of us are in the same boat; planning something special, something new & inspirational only to have to postpone, rethink and redesign. And it’s this reimagining and adaptation that I think many of us are struggling with. So much time goes in to planning and touring a show – how to find the energy to re-think & change that? How do we present our music to the world if we can’t tour? How do we collaborate at a distance? Can it be done live? How do we quickly develop the skills to use technology for online presentation? How do we monetise that?
I’m in awe of those currently producing lots of material, especially of good sound & visual quality. How do they do it? What gear do they use? How do they find the motivation & energy?
Iain and I have done some home video music recording in this period for online concerts and TV programmes and it’s hard! Think Instagram v Reality! What you see might be quite different to the process. I have always appreciated the skill of the camera operator, the sound engineer, the makeup artist and the director working on the various TV programmes we’ve done over the years and now, all of a sudden we’re supposed to do it all?! I’m genuinely exhausted by it. And what’s our motivation to do it? Is it simply for the enjoyment of others? Profile raising? Paid work? Pressure to do something? It throws up so many questions as you can see!
Granted that being self employed means you have to be a bit of a jack of all trades anyway; a musician, teacher, presenter, administrator, accountant, social media guru etc. but we are now expected to up that skill-set quite dramatically or are we? As a more ‘mature’ musician ( I was once always written about as the young Ingrid Henderson but no more!!) I already find this new world of music videos and online promotion overwhelming so do I need to dip my toe in the water any further? Is this the new normal? Or just a panic response to the current situation?
I’ve adapted to online teaching pretty quickly but that’s something I’ve done previously and I’m lucky that I have established relationships with most of my students already. That makes a huge difference in this change over to screen-time learning. I’m lucky to teach for the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton who have been really proactive in getting our lessons online, with a clear emphasis on keeping our students playing and enjoying their music in this brave new, overwhelming world. It’s a real joy and such a supportive environment to work in. My commute is now 10 secs instead of 2 hours, which is surely better for my family and the planet, although selfishly I miss the gorgeous Highland scenery and the thinking time. I do not miss the right-hand driving tourists however!
And of course everybody’s experience of this strange time is completely different. Frontline workers will have huge safety concerns, furloughed employees will have different worries to the self employed who at this point have been unsupported and left in the dark for nearly two months. Short and long term looks grim for us, no doubt about it. An employed friend of mine laughed at me the other day when I said that we as a family just have to survive this year. She thought I was being dramatic. I wasn’t. I was being practical and truthful. We just need to keep afloat, keep ourselves and our family well and that will be enough.
And don’t talk to me about juggling home-schooling, I thought I’d left fractions and human reproduction behind a long time ago!
So for today, I’m calming the stormy waters and I’ll just be grateful for my loving family, my rural location and open spaces, my health and my ability to care for my older relatives and friends, the wood in my log pile (another favourite lock-down job!), the food on the table, the work I do have and the support from some wonderful organisations.
But ask me tomorrow…I might feel differently.
* Message in a Bottle/ Brath ‘sa Bhuideal’ is a new music and audio visual show from Ingrid Henderson for 2020 Year of Coast and Waters.
The Performers are:
Ingrid Henderson (harp/ piano/ vocals)
Anna Massie (guitar/ fiddle)
Megan Henderson (fiddle, vocals & piano)
Conal McDonagh (Uileann pipes/ whistle)
Animation and visuals by Cat Bruce and Somhairle MacDonald.
We plan to share some online content from the show from mid July onwards.