Free form essays

Macha Lemaître: culture and art did not make the “essential services” list

This morning, while reading the news, I learned about a new variant of Сovid-19, which seems very dangerous. The health restrictions are tightening in France, and some neighboring countries have already decided to start another lockdown. My throat tightens.

I remember having the same feeling less than two years ago.

On March 11, 2020, I wanted to start my brand new project, lent a place for it, had friends around me to support it. It would have been a fantastic party, a spring for my art, a great new start.

Instead, we were advised to stay at home. The next day the government officially announced the start of lockdown. I spent a few months in isolation with my partner and our two-year-old son.

Day after day, we had a thousand things to do, and at the same time, nothing was happening. We had anxiety about this unknown virus. I could not go outside, could not tour, did not have any contact with my audience. The pages of social media and news feed became the background of life. Culture and art did not make the “essential services” list.

A thousand questions swirled in my mind every day. What will I do if we don’t reopen? If I had to change careers to survive, what would I do then? I could not find answers.

I participated in some collaborative videos with my artist friends. In one of them, my friend Judith showed our group of friends. I thought it was terrific.

The French government decided to support people with artistic professions who had temporary contracts and released funds to help them. Not every artist made the cut.

I was one of the lucky ones; I should have been happy and waited patiently for the end of the pandemic. But I felt a burning need to create and go back to my audience.

I look at the page, which stays desperately blank because of my lack of inspiration, lack of walks outside, fascinating conversations, and absurd ideas that appear when I look at paintings at the museum or observe people on the subway and the streets. It feels like this hell will never end.

Then, when the number of people getting sick went down, we could go outside again. The restrictions were lifted. I returned to rehearsals and saw my colleagues again; I cried with emotion when I smelled the familiar backstage smell of the theater, a mixture of fireproof paint, dust, and old fears.

I found that my voice had matured; maybe I have done so as well.

It took some time before people were allowed to public performances again. On a cold morning in April, I went to a peaceful protest for the reopening of theaters and concert halls in front of the Odéon theater. I supported the artists and the creators, art students who worked in Paris and other theaters all over France.

Eventually, we got permission to perform in schools again. I rushed into it with a student theater company, to which I owe a lot.

Little by little, we were once again able to organize “real” concerts and play our music. We found that our audience welcomed us back with warmth and gratitude, like seeing old friends years later. Nothing has changed. My life was again full of music; I spent a lot of time on the stage. I was able to relaunch my project; we were playing a lot of concerts, more than ever before.

I lost some connections in this fight. I mourned the death of a stereotypical career only to invent a tailor-made one for myself.

Some mornings were almost careless. Until this morning.

Macha Lemaître is a classical music performer. She grew up in Paris, where she still lives and works today. She studied music at the Normal School of Music in Paris (Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris) and graduated from the Master’s program for adults in Notre Dame de Paris.

In this essay, Macha shares her thoughts about what art and its creators went through during this controversial period between the lockdowns of last year and potential new restrictions.

You can follow her projects at