By Jen Eason
Ending on a Rushed Note
What happened to the performance groups not allowed to perform?
BY JEN EASON
I didn’t cry when they kicked us off campus. I read the eviction notice that fateful Tuesday morning while walking to section in William James Hall, and my mind instantly went into action mode. By the end of March 10, I’d bought a flight home, found friends to store my boxes with, and started to take down my photowall, put up only two months before. For the next 60 hours until I left campus, I focused almost all of my waning energy on getting everything together with the Noteables, a Broadway show choir group on campus of which I am the President. Our upcoming concert was scheduled for March 28, and before eviction we, like so many other groups, had been having frantic board meetings to discuss how to accommodate the increasingly impossible restrictions Harvard was emailing us. When the final boot came, our financial and logistical costs were fairly low, since we’re a relatively small operation, but, like many, the emotional bill came out incredibly high.
For the Radcliffe Choral Society, their International Tour Manager, Risa Komatsu ‘21, told me about their upcoming April concert, which has now been postponed to October. They had already printed some posters for the event, but more so have “rehearsed so much” that they still want to perform their pieces in the fall. Unfortunately, their current seniors won’t get to join. They also had to cancel their Arts First performance with Collegium and Glee Club. The Harvard Glee Club (HGC) Manager, Rowen Plagen ’21, was forced to cancel the group’s “Heartland Tour” where they were going to sing throughout the Rust Belt, ending with a concert in Ohio with two prison choirs. It was a project a year in the making that had already accrued some sunk costs in the form of bus and airline tickets, but whose cancellation was more so “a very disappointing hit to group morale.” And the Italy tour was cancelled. Obviously. Plagen says that they’re still trying to “keep the community going” online, though, through activities such as shared Minecraft games and journal posts.
As for financial costs, I talked with the UC Chair of Finance Committee, Mini Ganesh ’21, who says that the UC passed three legislations during eviction week, one of which was to set aside $20,000 for the last set of club interviews and grants. These grants are retroactive, however, and apply only to events that have already happened. She says they won’t take back anything they’ve already sent out, but they won’t be giving out anymore either. So far, no one has come to the UC complaining about losses, but that’s because usually only smaller-scale groups, like the Noteables, rely heavily on UC funding, whereas bigger or older groups, like the Hasty Pudding, HGC, and the Pitches, rely on other sources, like alumni.
Sophie Webster ’21, the President of the Pitches, also had a tour cancelled. This one was to Bermuda and had been organized by Esther Iya ’20, who unfortunately won’t get to see her plans come to fruition. Direct costs were minimized since they had been planning to stay in homestays, but this semester was also supposed to be their 45th anniversary celebration, which will now be pushed off until the fall. Their alumni were very involved throughout the whole process, monitoring the advance of COVID-19, and being “very supportive, kind, and helpful” during the whole chaotic process. They officially called off the tour on Monday before eviction, when the notice about banning gatherings over 100 people was announced. And once the eviction notice came, they had to “scrape together something else.” This turned out to be an “unofficial” concert in Lowell courtyard where they invited their friends to “happen to all arrive at the same time.” They then had to deal with the “emotions of bidding adieu to seniors.” As for next semester (whenever that turns out to be…) they hope to put on an official performance because they have “unfinished business.”
One group particularly affected by the 100-person ban was the Veritones, says their Music Director Chloe Levine ’22, which was scheduled to perform that night with the Callbacks and the Fallen Angels. By the time they’d heard the news, it was too late to cancel the professional sound, film, and photo staff they had hired, and they had to refund all of their ticket revenue. The show went on, however, as a low-quality live stream. Despite these setbacks, Levine is confident that they will “keep singing, no matter what!” Levine was also in the midst of directing a production of The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter on-campus. She would like to transfer the production to the fall, but since theater is based on a semester-by-semester application process, seniors will be gone, and people will have other commitments, so she feels that “the opportunity is gone.”
Another show that is hoping to go on is Fake Moos, this year’s froshical, which may be the first ever sophmorical, according to director Sam Dvorak ’23. This group has the luck of being composed entirely of first-years, so they don’t have the obstacle of graduating seniors. And now that they have five extra months (or maybe more), they are going to use this time to “edit and revise to make it as good of a show as possible.” One show that won’t transfer so easily to next semester is from the Bach Society, according to their production manager, Claire Millett ’21. It had been designed by their music director Reuben Stern ’20 and was supposed to be the “perfect end to their season and his musical career.” Instead, they had to scramble together a senior send-off, instead of having their usual big brunch after their concert. But despite best efforts, it “didn’t feel like enough.” The group is pretty small, so “everyone knows everyone,” and for some of the goodbyes, Millett knew she might never see those friends ever again. One of Millett’s biggest concerns for the group going forward is Visitas being canceled, as it is one of their “biggest sources for outreach.” Since some prefrosh haven’t heard of Bach Soc, she’s unsure what membership will look like once we’re back on campus.
As for the Noteables, we shared a very similar experience with our sister performance groups on-campus. Once I’d sorted out my personal logistics, I called one final Noteaboard meeting where we discussed how to make something resembling lemonade out of the barrel of lemons Harvard had emailed us. That night we informally convened in Quincy Grille, one of the few still open. We laughed through an impromptu reading of our show script, and had a tutor tell us that we couldn’t have open containers inside. Wednesday was a Noteaparty that started in the Quad Grille, and then moved to a Currier lounge. We played paranoia and mourned the loss of Housing Day. Thursday, during our normal rehearsal time, we had the karaoke party that we normally did a few weeks after our show. I handed out the paper plate awards that we normally would have made while pregaming for Spring Formal, and nearly burst into tears while reading out the numerous silly accomplishments all our seniors had gained over the years. The other day, we all Zoomed during what would have been our concert time, and we’re trying, with few results, but many laughs, to record a song together from our different time zones. So the Noteables, like all these other wonderful groups, will keep on, because it’s not over until
Jen Eason ’21 (email@example.com), in addition to being President of the Noteables, writes for the Harvard Independent 🙂