It feels like it’s Wednesday at 3pm all the time. We’re still draining ourselves on Zoom, or making do without the hero pay that topped us up early in the pandemic. The joke phrase “the before times” has stopped bringing laughs, and is now used as an earnest shorthand for the recent past. We’re in the three calendar year of this now, and everyone’s fingers are cramping as they keep holding on.
Yes, we’re tired. But superstar soprano Measha Brueggergosman-Lee already knows how we all feel.
“I was looking up to see the bottom when COVID hit. This is why I think it was so necessary and natural for me to mobilize so quickly: Because I’d already been cancelled,” she begins, speaking by phone with The Coast. (It’s worth noting that when Brueggergosman-Lee, who is not on Twitter, says “cancelled” she doesn’t mean it in the social media sense. Rather, she means more akin to “discontinued,” like the life she’d planned was a season of TV that would never air.)
“I want to encourage people out there who wonder if their idea is good: It’s good because it’s yours.”
After a heart attack and major surgery, after illness and death in the family and a divorce all crashed ashore at once, she began to learn how to navigate an uncertain sea. “I'm like: Okay, well listen. I personally have been shut down and been forced to refocus two times in my life. And I understand how healing that can be. And so now, because it happened to me the year before it happened to the rest of the world, I felt like I was in position to be truly helpful.”
Enter The Measha Series, a collection of livestreamed showcases the singer is mounting during omicron’s downpour. Each performance sees Brueggergosman-Lee partnering with musicians she admires from her new home province of Nova Scotia, while pivoting between genres and mediums. (The next installment, Thursday February 3, sees her and pianist Daniel Clarke-Bouchard present a repertoire of classical works, streaming live from Saint John’s Imperial Theatre. Future shows tackle gospel staples and incorporate dance—peep measha.com for full series details.)
It’s a gift to less-established artists, yes. (“I can only imagine what it would be like for people who don't have as strong of a foothold in the music industry as I do,” she says.) But she’s also aiming to uplift audiences. “I want to make sure that I fortify the walls of their spirit,” the singer says. To her future show-goers, she continues: “Make sure you fill up here. And then you use the gas and what you've got here to fuel kindness in the rest of your life. This isn't an isolated event. This is a fountain that you come to to quench your thirst—and then go and quench other people's thirst.”
Brueggergosman spent most of the pandemic living a cottagecore dream, tending a garden and making a home in a rural part of Nova Scotia she refers to as “in the forest. I’m calling you from a landline,” she says, a laugh and a wink audible in her emphasis. “I will fully admit that I am outside of my comfort zone when it comes to the algorithms, the social media,” she says. “Like feeding into a thing, wondering if it's gonna work or if you're just gonna fall flat on your face and people are gonna laugh at you.”
But that isn’t stopping her. “To the people out there who are livestreaming, to the artists out there who are trying to get something going, I’m Measha Brueggergosman-Lee and I don't know what I'm doing. I was encouraged because I'm just going with the best idea I could come up with. And I want to encourage people out there who wonder if their idea is good: It's good because it's yours.”
Like a shot of espresso set to revive us from this seemingly endless 3pm slump, Brueggergosman-Lee reminds us all to hang in there. “Don't let people convince you that hope is some kind of wishful thought. It is the strategy. And I know that I am like an instrument of hope. So I just needed to get myself in position and start making content. And The Measha Series is born out of that.”