• Veronica Kokas

"Hard times come again no more"

The past few weeks have undoubtedly been some of the hardest & most difficult---not just for me, but for all of us. The landscape of the world that we've known has been changed, forever, and many of us are overwhelmed with emotion. In these difficult times, we find ourselves wondering how to make lemonade out of the lemons that life has given us. Without a doubt, life has handed us some sour lemons---but as with any difficult situation, there is always a way to move forward and through these experiences.

A few weeks ago, when things first started to spiral into the reality that we find ourselves in today, I found that it became increasingly difficult for me to make music. I found that I had no desire to sing outside of my regular lessons with students. After all, how could I spend time making music for my own enjoyment, while so many of my musician friends find themselves out of work? Singing & practicing felt selfish and frivolous to me.

But what I had forgotten was that music is not only for sharing during good times, but is also for bringing communities together during difficult times. There have been so many instances over the past three weeks where a friend on social media has tweeted or shared an inspiring musical performance that has made me press the "pause" button on my day, and has reminded me of why I fell in love with music & singing in the first place. Singing has always been a form of emotional release for me, and is a way of expressing my emotions when no other method seems to work.

When I began to sing again last week for enjoyment, I started working on Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love", a pop song from the 80's, which, as anyone who knows me from college can tell you, is definitely NOT what I'm used to working on. For the past thirteen years, from when I started voice lessons at 14 years old, my life has been consumed by classical music and classical voice study. Throughout high school, college, and grad school, I was taught how to sing, and sing well, but rarely worked on anything other than classical, as I felt that I didn't sound "good" at singing pop/musical theatre. Singing pop music did (and still does) make me feel nervous. But when I started working on "Hounds of Love" last week, I wasn't concerned with "technique" and the "correct" way to sing the song---I was more concerned with putting all of my grief and frustration into the song, and channeling my emotions into my practice. And let me tell you, it was some of the best singing that I had done in months. Not because of the way it sounded, but because of how I felt when I was done singing. The feeling of relief, of release, of gratitude when I had finished singing was what made the singing so rewarding.

By telling you about this experience, I'm not saying that music & music-making is a "cure" for the emotions you may be feeling right now. There is no cure or quick fix to undo the collective sorrow we all feel, and it's important that you process your emotions as you see fit. But this is just a reminder that music is still here, always waiting for you. There is always a song to be sung or played, and there is always a story to be told through music. Even if you don't feel like making music right now, that's okay---music has been around for literally centuries, and isn't going away anytime soon. But if you are ready to sing & play---play on, y'all.

I will leave you with this recording of the Baylor University A Capella Choir performing "Hard Times", an arrangement of the Stephen Foster folk song by Craig Hella Johnson. The original folk song was also written during another difficult period of American history--in 1854--during the lead up to the Civil War. May this song give you some reassurance that this period of time will pass as well.

Lyrics to "Hard Times":

Let us pause in life's pleasures and count its many tears While we all sup sorrow with the poor There's a song that will linger forever in our ears Oh Hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary Hard times, hard times, come again no more Many days you have lingered around my cabin door Oh hard times come again no more

While we seek mirth and beauty and music bright and gay There are frail forms fainting at the door Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say Oh hard times come again no more Tis the song, the sigh of the weary Hard times, hard times, come again no more Many days you have lingered around my cabin door Oh hard times come again no more Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave Oh hard times come again no more



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