Red Deer’s Marla Torgerson wants to return to her hometown to sing in the streets.
The neo-soul-country-folk singer is offering live music concerts, at a safe distance, to soothe the stress and boredom of COVID-19 isolation.
Torgerson said she knows, from a powerful mid-March sing-along she led with weary ex-pats at London’s Heathrow Airport, that music can unite people and release suppressed emotions.
“We have such amazing music in this county, and it’s like a balm. There’s nothing more healing than music.”
A week before the airport experience, Torgerson had been in Spain, writing her one-woman show, Sinner.
She was on her way to a Seville coffee shop on March 12, when suddenly, shutters were being pulled down on every business along the way.
“Restaurant owners were starting to pull the furniture in, the streets were being emptied out,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on.”
Torgerson’s alarm grew after an English speaker told her Spain’s prime minister had just made a televised emergency address. All businesses were ordered to close by 5 p.m. to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.
And everyone in that region of Spain was ordered to stay home, except for essential trips to the grocery store or pharmacy.
Thus began six days of “dystopia.”
Torgerson recalled seeing armed soldiers patrolling the streets, questioning anyone who ventured outdoors.
“It was terrifying. I was all by myself,” she recalled — with two weeks to go until her return flight to Canada.
Torgerson spent all her waking hours trying to book an earlier flight home. After three cancellations, she was finally able to get on one of the last international flights out of Spain on March 18.
During a stop-over at London’s Heathrow Airport, dozens of other Canadians had gathered at Torgerson’s gate. “They were coming from Egypt, from all over the world,” she recalled.
“They looked like they’d been through so much, trying to get home…”
When Torgerson spotted a grand piano at the gate, she decided to entertain the group with an impromptu concert of Canadian songs. By the time she wrapped up Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, she noticed most of her audience was in tears.
“We all just sobbed, the 50 of us, standing around the piano with masks on … I felt so grateful to be Canadian,” said Torgerson.
The recording artist, who’s performed internationally, recently completed her 14-day self-isolation at a friend’s condo in Calgary.
She credits her Alberta friends for “coming through” for her, as she had given up her Vancouver apartment before visiting Spain, and had all of her belongings shipped to Toronto, where she was to relocate.
The graduate of Hunting Hills High School and the Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills is remaining in Calgary for now, having had to cancel three planned Toronto shows.
She recently came up with an entrepreneurial idea that could help brighten people’s days during this dull period.
Torgerson is offering to drive to Red Deer with her piano and guitar and sing from any residential street, cul de sac, or parking lot, with listeners in their yards, or a distance away, on lawn chairs. (She said her sound system complies with municipal noise bylaws).
Hour-long concerts cost $150, and can be booked for birthdays, anniversaries — or “donated” to health-care workers, or long-term care homes, she said.
“People in Red Deer are going through a tough time right now, and I’d like to bring what I have back home to reconnect with people in my city,” added Torgerson.
More information is available from marlatorgerson.com.