Like other local musicians, Surrey’s Jeanette Bernal-Singh is finding ways to stay creative.
The Fleetwood-area resident is a 21-year violinist with Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, which is performing a series of “VSO@Home” virtual concerts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The last time Bernal-Singh performed in person with other VSO members was March 13, in an empty Orpheum Theatre for a “BeethovenFest Virtual Finale” viewed online by more than 70,000 people.
“It was really exciting,” said Bernal-Singh.
The VSO has since been busy with its @Home series, details of which are posted to VSOatHome.ca.
“We are brainstorming a lot and we have some projects ready to go,” she added. “It’s all online, and the musicians are recording their parts in their house and it’s all put together by someone who’s good with technology. We are keeping busy, and it’s good because as musicians we have to keep practising, and we are doing that. We can’t lose our chops, as they say, just like an athlete with training. It’s the same.”
Bernal-Singh is thankful to remain employed by the VSO, which on April 9 rescinded planned layoffs, in anticipation of the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS).
“The VSO will invest an additional $287,000 to keep staff and musicians employed through this period with the goal of maintaining employment for musicians and staff to the end of the VSO’s 2019-20 season in June,” according to a news release.
When the pandemic hit, the VSO says it lost 40 per cent of its revenue that comes from ticket sales, and called for donations to help.
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of the federal government and the CEWS program, and the many, many donors and patrons who have shown their ongoing support for the VSO,” said Angela Elster, President and CEO. “Audience members are donating their tickets back to the VSO, new supporters are making their first cash donations, and our many long-time friends are renewing and increasing their support. On behalf of the orchestra and staff, we thank all of you for enabling us to keep our orchestra intact.”
On Friday (April 24), the VSO’s education department launched a Virtual Learning Hub for teachers, students, parents and caregivers.
In her time away from the orchestra, Bernal-Singh teaches at the Langley Community Music School and also privately.
“I have three students, because with the VSO schedule it’s not easy to find time to teach,” she said with a laugh. “I have two kids as well.”
Born in Mexico, Bernal-Singh has been with the VSO since October of 1998.
“It’s a fulltime job, and we go in five times a week – or we did go in, before COVID,” she said. “Sometimes we’ll do a morning rehearsal followed by a nighttime concert, depending on the day – it’s that case on a Friday, for example. It’s not the case now, of course.”
In Surrey, the VSO’s “Surrey Nights” series is performed five times at a year Bell Performing Arts Centre, most recently on Feb. 28 when 13-year-old Alma Deutscher was in the spotlight. Along with other concerts, a May 8 performance at the Sullivan-area theatre has been cancelled.