REVIEW: Carrie Newcomer at the Ark online

In these times of online-only connection, singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer’s virtual concert this past Saturday with the Ark was what I needed. Newcomer delivered a program, entitled “The Age Of Possibility: A Moment and Movement,” that was hopeful and peaceful, as well as a lifeline of human connection delivered across time and space via electrons. She was also joined by violinist Allie Summers and pianist Gary Walters. As an existing fan of Newcomer’s music, which falls somewhere in the vein of folk and the concert was more than I could have hoped for over the internet.

As I have noted in other reviews of virtual arts events, one of the main casualties of an online concert experience, besides sound quality, is the communal experience of being in an audience. However, the format of Carrie Newcomer’s virtual concert allowed for some of this connection to take place despite the circumstances. It was presented via an online platform called Mandolin, which is like Zoom, but specifically designed for music and concerts. It has a chat feature that allows audience members to interact during the program, and the artists can even see some of the messages that are sent. At the end of the concert on Saturday, Carrie Newcomer even performed an additional song after several people typed “ENCORE!!” into the chat! Additionally, Mandolin allows users to click emoji reactions, which then float up onto the screen and can be seen by the artists. I honestly never would have thought that I would get so much satisfaction from sending a spray of floating heart and clapping emojis after a song, but I suppose that is where quarantine has brought us! It was a way to find a little bit of the connection that so many of us are missing due to the pandemic, and the best “online” arts experience that I have had since the pandemic began. In fact, I have been watching Newcomer’s website to see when her next online concert will be (one plus regarding virtual concerts – you can attend from anywhere with an internet connection!).

Newcomer’s songs, which are often focused on the small things of large importance in life, are increasingly relatable during the pandemic era where life approaches monotony. For instance, one of the songs she performed was entitled “Who My Dog Thinks I Am,” which was both humorous and true in its observations. Another song, “You Can Do This Hard Thing,” starts by describing a struggle with a math problem: “There at the table / With my head in my hands. / A column of numbers / I just could not understand. /You said “Add these together, / Carry the two, Now you. / You can do this hard thing.” Newcomer performed a mix of old favorites and new, never-performed-before compositions. The program was both fresh and, for those who know her music well, familiar.

I left the concert feeling refreshed and full of hope, a feeling that is all to rare in the current world. I will leave you with the lyrics of one of Carrie Newcomer’s most beloved songs, “The Gathering of Spirits,” because that is what this concert was. It was a true gathering of spirits, even if we were gathered over the internet, and someday, when the pandemic is over, we will all meet again.

“Let it go my love my truest,
Let it sail on silver wings
Life’s a twinkling that’s for certain,
But it’s such a fine thing
There’s a gathering of spirits
There’s a festival of friends
And we’ll take up where we left off
When we all meet again.”
– Carrie Newcomer, “The Gathering of Spirits”

JM

JM is a dual degree student in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the College of Engineering. Some of her favorite things include running, reading, all things creative, purple, and zebras.

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