Musician Tara Semple finds a new rhythm in the midst of a pandemic

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Tara Semple plays a different tune as she prepares to host her first Solstice Sound Bath concert next week in Regina.

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Tara Semple is remarkably optimistic for someone who is stuck in a “COVID cocoon”.

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As musicians continue to lament the chains of the pandemic, Semple has found creative ways to spread her wings as she explores new genres and expands her musical repertoire.

Classically trained flautist, Semple normally teaches and performs with various ensembles, including the Regina Symphony Orchestra. She also plays classical baroque music in addition to maintaining the family tradition in a band alongside her children and her husband Jack, a prominent Regina-based bluesman.

While some of Tara’s usual outlets have slowed down due to COVID, it has also opened the door to new pursuits such as her recent passion for meditative ‘sound baths’.

“If you’re a musician in a small center, you wear a lot of different hats,” says Tara, whose diverse musical interests helped escape during the pandemic.

“I call it the COVID cocoon and I loved it because I’m a very busy person. When you take out all those gigs and the things that we usually work on… there were a lot of really cool things to do. It was like having a sabbatical.

Semple used the time constructively by performing musical Vespers for the congregation at Knox-Metropolitan United Church in Regina. The idea was to play “beautiful, calming music” for people who might “panic” about the pandemic and be stuck at home.

“This kind of music is really precious,” she says. “Especially in these times that we live in, because people are full of anxiety and lives are way too busy.”

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These feelings forced Semple to further explore his interest in “sound therapy”.

She opened her own studio at Knox-Met Church in September and began offering sound baths, which use instruments like gongs, drums, wooden flutes, shakers and crystal bowls.

“It’s brand new,” she said. “It’s part of the COVID cocoon. I had time to be creative and to do things in different ways.

Semple is now preparing for his first official concert – A Solstice Sounding – on December 21, 7:30 p.m., at Knox-Met Church (tickets are $ 25 via eventbrite.ca).

The 60- to 90-minute sound bath coincides with Tuesday’s winter solstice.

“We are in the darkest part of the night and now we turn this corner and the light will start to come back again,” she explains. “It’s the same in our lives. We have been in COVID and we hope to return to this place of light again. This is the opportunity to have these messages of hope.

Sound baths can take different forms and use different instruments. Instead of following a typical melody, it is about “the frequency of sound”, which hopefully leads to spiritual cleansing.

“The gongs are ringing and they are full of all these harmonics,” she says. “What you do is listen deeply and just let those sounds overwhelm you. It’s a different sound and it’s very calming. Some people fall asleep completely. The experience is different for everyone. People are welcome to bring a pillow and blanket and lie down if they wish. When I am in a sound bath (as an observer) I hear the sound and listen so deeply that it prevents me from thinking so that I can enter a much more peaceful state.

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In addition to exploring sound baths, Semple expanded his music education during the pandemic by taking various online courses from around the world.

It included a writing course, which was a new experience.

“I’m a Semple, so there are a lot of people writing songs in my house but I wasn’t one of them,” she laughs. “I am a classical musician. I play what’s on my page. (Since taking the course) I have written a number of plays.

One of them will be performed during the solstice concert by her husband Jack. He will conclude the evening with one of his own songs, entitled Walking, which he will take the audience on a “beautiful journey”.

“It seemed like a really nice way to end the concert,” says Tara. “It’s a very different style offering. But I just felt very strongly how important something like that is at this time of year. It’s like a gift for yourself in the midst of all the activities and obligations and running around. It’s a moment just for you. It’s like a little vacation for yourself.

This is also true for Semple.

Although she performs music, the experience is also therapeutic for her.

“I have been a musician all my life,” she adds. “Experiencing sound in completely different ways is really fun. It’s a great experience and it’s creative and it’s different and unique every time. It’s an expanded part of my musical experience at this point in my life.

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