If you were walking down by Toronto’s Waterfront for a brief respite during our COVID-19 social distancing, you might have caught the beautiful voice of Teiya Kasahara, a resident of Artscape Bayside Lofts and soprano. Teiya decided to perform for the community — and to the world — through their 19 videos for COVID-19 project, and they have since been showcased on Global TV, BlogTO, The Toronto Star and other media outlets. Get to know more about Teiya and this inspiring creative project:
What inspired the idea of producing 19 videos for COVID-19?
TK: I was initially inspired by the balcony performances in Italy, and being an opera singer where there is such a rich tradition in Italian music and culture, I thought, why not? I could do this, too. I could do something to share music and opera when so many theatres had started to cancel their shows and shut their doors. Then my colleagues started to lose their gigs, and then I started to lose mine. And instead of dwelling on fear and anxiety, I decided to channel it into a creative project.
The number 19 kept resonating with me, so I thought why not do 19 videos/performances for COVID-19. After the overwhelming response from the first song I knew it was the right decision, and it’s not only helping me having a space to feel what I don’t yet understand with these rapidly changing and unprecedented times, but I see these performances helping to grow our solidarity in this struggle of social isolation. It’s amazing to witness my local community (Artscape Bayside Lofts, Aquavista, and Aqualina condo buildings) connect and share in a few more moments of hope and joy during the Toronto shutdown, as opposed to fear and uncertainty. I hope these videos/performances can spread the joy of music rather than spread the virus.
Do you have any plans for extension if social distancing continues?
TK: One extension is our Livestream concert on April 1 at 6 pm EST for the NAC’s #CanadaPerforms. Andrea Grant and I will be doing an hour concert from the living room that people can tune into live. And beyond that, there is nothing concrete as of yet, but I hope to collaborate (online) with more musicians in the Artscape building and other colleagues in the city and across the country (maybe abroad too) to do some online and/or live stream collaborations and/or conversations to demonstrate our processes and talk about origin stories and creative inspirations.
How has the community at Artscape Bayside Lofts embraced the performances?
TK: I couldn’t have imagined the overwhelming positive response I have received from these balcony songs. My neighbours are so supportive and generous for tuning in live or online and sharing the joy that these songs are providing. I feel very grateful to be surrounded by such a warm, artistic community during these unprecedented times and to be meeting neighbours I’ve never met before. Our community is strong and I’m inspired by their resilience and kindness and hope for the future.
Teiya Kasahara 笠原貞野 (they/them) is a queer, gender non-binary, multi-disciplinary performer/creator, and first-generation Nikkei-Canadian settler proud to make Tkarón:to their home. Teiya comes from a background of over a decade of singing both traditional and contemporary operatic roles across North America and Europe, most recently praised as “a force of nature” (Toronto Star) and “an artist with extraordinary things to say” (The Globe and Mail). They combine opera, theatre, and taiko in their artistic practice and co-founded Amplified Opera, a new initiative which is bringing Toronto an “injection of […] creativity & politics of inclusivity” (barczablog) to the opera community with their recent inaugural concert series AMPLIFY highlighting stories of international equity-seeking artists. For Teiya’s up-to-date schedule and latest news visit www.teiyakasahara.com or follow @teiyakasahara.