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Reflecting on the “winter” of the Arts: Nature’s great pause.

Nature has the remarkable ability to survive long winters. Trees go dormant. Spring bulbs remain closed and safe a few inches beneath our feet. True, a few flowers thrive in the cold, but nothing compared to the explosion of colors in the spring and summer. As a novice gardener, just today I finished transitioning all of my flower beds and pots to their winter finery: pansies & snapdragons. My family has a motto of “why do when you can overdo,” so I always plant two or three times as many in each space than I should! These colors, delicate as they may be, will give me just enough cheer to survive five or six months without my impatiens, crepe myrtles, and roses. To keep a reminder of my garden’s peak splendor, I harvest, dry, and bring inside the limelight blooms of my favorite hydrangeas.

Music and the creative arts have the same remarkable ability to survive. As we look around, some organizations have been forced to go dormant. Some have planted and nurtured more delicate and distanced art through our phones and computers and on our radios. Many, like Atlanta Master Chorale, are fortunate enough to have a library of performance videos from our “peak splendor”; not quite as good as being there live, but enough of a reminder to stir the soul and warm the heart until we share space again.

Interestingly, this long winter of separation from the art we all love as musicians, artists, and audiences will also burst open a new canon of amazing art. Composers are hard at work synthesizing this current human experience into new works ranging from the depths of sadness many are feeling to the overwhelming joy imagining when we will be reunited with family and friends. With the time we’ve been given to reflect, societal shifts of justice and equity are centering themselves in the stories that will be told on stages, on canvas, and in song. New harmonies will emerge. New voices, and some voices long drowned out will come to the forefront. Art will not only survive this pandemic; it will help us through it and rejuvenate us when it is over.

I’m sure someone has said that the arts are the flowers of life, but if they haven’t, you heard it here first. Make sure you pay attention to the art all around you during this “winter.” And, if you have at least one window, plant something and watch it grow.

By Jamie Clements, Tenor with Atlanta Master Chorale

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