BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY JULY 3, 2020
There are two questions Bruce Ensinger keeps hearing over and over again. When is it safe to rehearse, and when is it safe to perform? As an accompanist and one of the choirmasters for Diversity: The Voices of Sarasota, Ensinger still does not have an answer. “If the numbers keep going up, who knows?” he says.
That uncertainty applies to his own life as much as it does to the singers he works with. His church has closed, his freelance work as an accompanist has dried up and his monthly block parties have been shelved until further notice. Lately, the best he and the singers of Diversity have been able to do is a weekly Twitch stream hosted by artistic director Christopher Romeo that includes an hour of vocal technique and an hour of repertoire work. Though it may be a nice way to stay connected, nobody pretends these virtual sessions are as fulfilling as the real thing. “It’s just not the same when you can’t hear what the group sounds like together,” says Ensinger, “what singers love is singing with other people.”
In spite of all the sacrifices being made in the spirit of public health or the onslaught of headlines from the frontlines of the Black Lives Matter movement, Ensinger has found ways to be positive. His cheerful disposition reflects a deep well of optimism he has managed to dip into to fill his time with joy. “I like to say that if the glass isn’t half full, get a smaller glass and keep filling,” he says. So, Ensinger kept filling. He kept up his piano work by adding to and refining his repertoire, got busy making masks for his neighbors and for frontline workers, and found himself engaged in projects around the house. “My husband and I moved here four years ago,” he says, “and we still have some things to unpack.” Cookbooks mixed in with tax documents, artwork in need of frames, knickknacks needing to be dusted off, or given to Goodwill.
The small victories of the homebound helped to fill Ensinger’s cup, but larger victories reinforced his optimism. The US Supreme Court recently upheld legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. “When I saw all the conservative justices confirmed, it was a little scary,” says Ensinger, “but I think the court of public opinion is on the right side, and obviously it’s a big relief that the Supreme Court decided the way it did.” No matter the size and scale of the victory, Ensinger finds time to celebrate. “It’s easy to be overwhelmed in these times,” says Ensinger, “but each morning we have two choices: we can say ‘good morning, God’ or we can say ‘Good God, morning.