Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Michael Falk has decided to make the best of a bad situation.
The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled the rug out from nearly every entertainment event in Manitoba, including the inaugural Current Music Festival, which Falk was helping organize for August at The Forks.
The resulting extra time on Falk’s hands has allowed him and his "left-hand man," Alasdair Dunlop, to work on songs Falk had recorded and nearly finished over the past four years.
Some recent audio spit and polish led to a new group, Touching, and Isolation Blues, a collection of 10 tunes and videos that Falk been releasing one at a time, every Wednesday (wfp.to/touching). The first three tracks, Oh General, The Darkness and Let Me Be Lonely With You, have already been posted; song No. 4 hits the website today.
Winnipeg actor Ali Tataryn (Lovesick) and cinematographer Tyler Funk make up the video component of Isolation Blues. Two videos have been filmed each week — Winnipeg’s Exchange District and views of the Red River are both picturesque and gloomy — and Falk says they’ve just finished the fifth one, which is scheduled to come out May 20.
"The challenge is not to repeat ourselves," Falk says. "It’s a 10-video series of stories, a narrative, but I don’t think we realized what we were undertaking when we started."
Falk says the songs were written long before today’s pandemic but have themes that are in keeping with today’s culture of social distancing, isolation from family and friends, and layoffs, all of which he says are especially challenging for those with existing mental-health issues.
"They speak to what everyone is going through, to a certain extent," Falk, 41, says of Isolation Blues, whose first three releases have been moody-sounding indie-rock.
Besides the video, Falk adds a few words about how each song came to life. The second song, The Darkness, focuses on mental health.
"Depression, bipolar, anxiety... whatever shape it takes, it messes you up and it impacts your relationships and clouds your judgment." Falk writes. "It’s real and it’s alive in me, and in so many people I love. My wife said to me the other day, ‘It’s like you have two modes: depressed or working on a project.’"
This project also has a philanthropic angle to it. Half the proceeds from record sales — Isolation Blues is on sale at Touching’s Bandcamp page (https://wearetouching.bandcamp.com) — will go to the Unison Benevolent Fund, a charity that provides emergency relief and counselling services to Canada’s music community.
"So many of my peers and friends have lost work this spring," Falk says. "What does the future look like? How do you come back from this?"
The long weekend is just around the corner, but Saturday in particular will be a day to celebrate for fiddle players. The third Saturday in May — which coincides with the 1737 death of famed violin maker Antonio Stradivari — is World Fiddle Day, but COVID-19 has forced adjustments on those who play centuries-old jigs and reels.
So the world’s fiddlers will be taking to the internet, where part of the celebration will be the Covid Fiddle Championships, organized by Winnipeg fiddle champ Patti Kusturok, her Alberta-based son Alex, and his friend Calvin Vollrath, a Canadian fiddling sensation. The online event includes an open and an intermediate competition, and fiddlers from Canada, the United States, Norway, Germany and Scotland have already registered.
"I grew up going to fiddle competitions in the spring and summer, and of course, they’re all cancelled this year," says Patti Kusturok, fresh off an online performance celebrating Manitoba 150 on Tuesday. "We thought we could bring it online and people could watch and listen."
Listeners are welcome to join in on the championship’s Facebook page (wfp.to/covidfiddle). The music starts Saturday at 1 p.m.
Arts and Life Editor
Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.
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