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Social Distancing Runs Counter To Hartford-Based Music Ensemble’s Vision

Cuatro Puntos
Cuatro Puntos

As many people around the world hunker down in isolation, performing artists find themselves in uncharted territory. With no upcoming performances to practice for, how are they managing their time? Does creativity take over when boredom sets in?

One Hartford-based music director finds social distancing antithetical to his organization’s main purpose.

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Kevin Bishop is a violist, and the executive director of Cuatro Puntos, a Hartford-based arts organization and music ensemble. Like all organizations, coronavirus has forced Cuatro Puntos into a standstill.

“Obviously for now, our programming has had to stop, and we had to cancel a bunch of concerts,” said Bishop. “In March and April, we were scheduled to visit 24 classrooms in Hartford for classroom visits that had to come to a stop.”

In normal times, Cuatro Puntos’ resident musicians would be practicing and performing new works. It’s a big part of the ensemble’s mission.

“The whole premise of Cuatro Puntos has been that music can be used for healing and for bringing people together, and obviously now the whole world has flipped around and suddenly bringing people together is exactly not what we are supposed to do,” said Bishop.

He is particularly concerned about one of the programs Cuatro Puntos runs in partnership with Christ Church Cathedral. It’s called Music Moves Hartford, a choir consisting of Hartford residents who find themselves homeless. The street choir performs regularly in the Hartford area, and for many members it’s a respite from the day-to-day concerns of living on the streets. Bishop said he kept it going until recently, when Gov. Ned Lamont banned gatherings of five or more.

“We were already starting to change our room setup, and doing a better job of cleaning, when we were continuing at the beginning of this until we had to halt it for a while. So yeah, any time I see any of them they are just like, ‘Hey, when are we going to sing again?’ They are so enthusiastic.”

Credit Denise Gordon / Cuatro Puntos
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Cuatro Puntos
Cuatro Puntos' Kevin Bishop works with members of the Music Moves Hartford Street Choir in the basement of Christ Church Cathedral in Hartford.

For an ensemble that is used to keeping a hectic schedule, the standstill has given Bishop and his staff time for the things that normally fall through the cracks, like administrative tasks and communication. He said he’s eager for a return to normal.

“I’m not totally pessimistic that this is going to change our culture forever, where people are never going to want to be in the same room together again, I think that’s an extreme view,” said Bishop. “I think that at the moment, we have to heal by being apart. But when this comes to an end, people are going to be craving to be back together and to heal that way.”

In the meantime, Cuatro Puntos has fast-tracked the release of three new albums in the next three months. The ensemble’s next scheduled concert is May 16 in Glastonbury. Bishop says that if people are still social distancing by then, the concert will be performed as a live streaming event on the group’s website.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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