Spring weather is notorious for fluctuating between sun-soaked warmth and biting cold. One minute the world is bathed in golden joyfulness and optimism, and the next, the wind is howling at our door and rain-darkened clouds cast a shadow over the world. The weather mirrors our own feelings and reminds us how we can feel optimistic and joyful one moment, and melancholic and defeated the next.
Tenor Isaiah Bell gave us a glimpse into the ever-changing range of human emotions with his skillful, graceful, and at times raw storytelling through song. It was plain to see that this was not only a reflection of universal human emotions, but also a deeply personal experience that he shared with us. His program for the evening was carefully planned and curated to give voice to those moments of loneliness and at times, perhaps despair, but also flashes of the joy we can experience from genuine love and human connection. Bell reflected that “sad songs remind us that we’re not dead yet” which drew a chuckle from the crowd, but also awoke an urgency to feel every moment, even when it may be uncomfortable.
Bell performed a variety of songs ranging from Schumann’s Liederkreis to more contemporary pieces as well as some of his own compositions. The entire program reflected an introspective quality that poignantly captured those moments of being alone and being hypersensitive to the environment around us - perhaps the moon, or birdsongs or simply the stillness of an evening spent alone. His relaxed demeanour and laid-back style complemented the flexibility and effortless quality of his voice, which maneuvered the difficult passages and intervals deftly.
We tend think of loneliness, or sadness - these more melancholic feelings - as something negative, something to avoid. We fill our days with the busyness of work, school, and endless activities. It's as if we are afraid to be alone with our thoughts. Bell does not shy away from the idea of confronting these uncomfortable feelings and facing them head on. What if we embraced them? What new depths of understanding of ourselves and others could we discover in those quiet moments? When we truly know loss and loneliness, we treasure and hold our loved ones more closely. When we truly know sadness, joy is all the sweeter.
Bell offers no resolution on the somewhat turbulent and raw emotions he presents, rather we are left to ponder his meaning and confront our own feelings. I was left with the profound sense that understanding and facing sadness and despair is vital to our existence. Once we have known despair, we can fully realize the true meaning of joy. When the sun at last makes its appearance in the spring after months of wind and rain, it leaves us awestruck with its brilliance and life-giving warmth.
Emma Sweeney - Vice President