Lauren DeRoller and Pat McMaster, professional musicians (classical and electronic music, respectively), make their Montreal Fringe debut with “Under the Sheets”, an attempt to do the complete opposite of everything they dislike about the concerts they are usually a part of.
Lauren, a classical violinist, sympathizes with people’s reasons for disliking (and therefore not attending) classical music concerts: the pressure to stay quiet and seated the whole time, all the weird etiquette rules that are impossible to keep up with (God forbid you clap between movements), but most of all the lack of connection between the musicians and the audience. Pat shares this frustration: either we know nothing about the musicians onstage, or what little we do know comes from a short (though sometimes not short enough), insincere, overly intellectual and absurdly written bio found in the program booklet. It’s a comfort to learn that even the people whose job it is to perform in these concerts don’t necessarily agree with the absurd conventions they uphold.
“Under the Sheets” gives the audience a rare opportunity to really get to know the musicians before hearing them perform. Lauren and Pat (I can’t possibly refer to them by anything other than their first names. That would be too ironic and contrary to the point of the show.) are so far-removed from the aura of pretentiousness that normally seems to emanate from professional musicians. They are awkward and likeable, just two regular people who happen to play music for a living. They each tell a story from their life, recall pivotal moments from their childhood through their teenage years and early adulthood, and then perform a piece of music created from that story.
The stories they choose to tell are deeply personal and heavy in subject matter. They show great courage by sharing these parts of themselves, these broken pieces normally hidden behind a polished and professional facade. Upon seeing the content warning for themes of sexual assault and mental illness, I was not surprised considering both of these things are unfortunately known to be rampant in the music industry. However, the stories that play out in “Under the Sheets” shatter the assumptions my mind generated automatically based on the most commonly heard narratives of how these themes intersect with musicians’ lives. Lauren and Pat’s stories are familiar in some ways and completely unexpected in others.
The brief moments when they play another character in each other’s stories feel a little forced, however, especially since everything else is so profoundly real. In the end, I still felt a distance between the performers and the audience, but definitely a much smaller one than at your average classical or electronic music concert.
Lauren and Pat draw the audience in with their storytelling, but the musical performances are where they really shine. With her violin and a collection of loop pedals and other gadgets, Lauren creates a multi-layered audio picture of her relationship with her mother, all the sadness and the intergenerational pain she has carried on her shoulders, all the worry, but also the deep love that carried them through it all. On his synthesizer, Pat generates a haunting soundscape in which there is a whole world of shame and tragedy, the end of a childhood, friendships lost, and relationships avoided out of fear. These stories are already present in their music all the time; the audience just doesn’t get to hear them in words… until now. I don’t know that hearing the story helps us understand the music – perhaps music can’t ever really be understood, only interpreted – but it helps us understand the person behind the music. It removes the usual anonymity and suddenly we get to actually care about the performer. We feel close to them somehow. We would forgive them if they made a mistake, and we’re proud of them when they don’t.
With brave storytelling and top-notch musical performances, “Under the Sheets” is a concert unlike any other, an intimate celebration of human connection and the immeasurable power of music as a tool of self-expression.
Kay Komizara presents “Under the Sheets”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Performances: June 7 – June 16, 2019
Venue: 02 – Petit Campus
57 Prince-Arthur E., Montréal, H2X 1B4
Admission: $8-11 | Ages 18+
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