A renowned Montreal cellist who nearly died of COVID-19
has joined a coalition of artists teaming up to battle the pandemic by using their art as a tool.
Dennis Brott will provide the music for a series of videos in which professional dancers will perform while wearing masks. Brott recorded the soundtrack for the “Projet Masque” series on Friday, something he says would have been impossible for him just a few months ago.
“When I first went to the cello after coming home, my bow was like this on the string,” he told Global News, making his hand tremble. “I just couldn’t get a sound out.”
Brott was in Europe for a series of concerts in late February and early March, and caught COVID-19 just as the seriousness of the virus was coming into focus. The 69-year-old ended up at Montreal’s CHUM hospital in ICU, in an induced coma for 32 days.
“When I look at my hospital record, it’s a horror story. Several times I was sort of really at the edge, you know. They called my family and said, ‘This is not looking good,'” he told Global News.
Brott eventually beat the virus but is still going through painstaking rehab. He’s worked with a physical therapist who specialized in helping musicians work through injuries, but still does not believe he is at 100 per cent.
“I have a pretty strong desire to live. I have a lot of things I want to do in my life, and I I was very conscious of battling to stay alive,” he said.
When he was asked to lend his music to a new project aiming to promote mask wearing, he called it a “no-brainer.”
“We all need to become advocates, advocates about encouraging, not criticizing, but encouraging other people and of course, by example ourselves to wear masks,” he explained.
Music teacher Elaine Gaertner came up with “Projet Masque” through her own frustration.
“I noticed a lot of students in the area coming out of their schools, gathering in groups and ripping off their masks and being very close together,” she explained.
Gaertner works closely with dancers and musicians, so she decided to mobilize them in an attempt to address the problem.
She set off to produce a series of videos in which dancers would perform while wearing masks. Brott enthusiastically agreed to provide the music and Global News was there as he recorded it. Brott said given his experience, people who deny the dangers of COVID-19 anger him.
“I don’t wish anything bad on anybody, but they need to read some hospital records of what happens to people who get COVID,” he said.
“When you have a serious case of COVID, your other organs are affected and your lungs are white. I was at 70 per cent oxygenation. The minimum is supposed to be 92 and then you’re in the danger zone.”
The masks for the video series come from local Montreal artisans like Katrin Leblond.
READ MORE: Lethbridge men finish one-of-a-kind electric cello during COVID-19 pandemic
Gaertner got professional dancers on board from troupes including Ballets Jazz Montreal.
“I am a believer that artists and dancers are kind of ambassadors not only to entertain and to make people escape, but to teach lessons, to have people question themselves,” said Jeremy Raia, the artistic director of Ballets Jazz Montreal.
About 75 dancers will perform in masks to Brott’s music. The videos will be released online from now until Christmas.
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