In 2005, Allison starting blogging to track the ups and downs of living life as an artist.
Today, she blogs to share our Infinitely More adventures in music and ministry! 
Read, comment, share! 

No Clear Path to Reopening for Musicians 


For months, I’ve been terrified of “The Gap”
that time between the world returning to normal and musicians returning to work.


For the last decade, my husband, Gerald Flemming, and I have toured Canada with our inspirational duo, Infinitely More. Each year, we pack our car with guitars, gear, and CDs to bring live music from St. Catharines, ON, to every corner of the country. We’ve performed thousands of events, recorded 8 studio albums, and racked up a handful of national music awards.

That was, until 2020. We spent our first weeks of lockdown cancelling concerts, including our 10th Anniversary Cross Canada Tour. Lost income, lost creativity, lost community - it broke our hearts.

We pivoted to creating videos and teaching online lessons. We received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to take our 10th Anniversary Tour online. We partnered with the Anglican Diocese of Niagara to create our “Lenten Musical Calendar”. We started to work on our 9th studio album. 
We did our best to stay creative and connected.

17 months later, lockdowns are lifting. Vaccinations are happening. 
Businesses are reopening. Everyone is excited about the return to normal.

But for musicians, we find ourselves firmly in “The Gap”.

You see, there’s no clear path for a full-time professional musician to “reopen”. 
We’re not like other businesses. There won’t be a day when the government announces, 
“And today, artists can return to work!” 


The pathway to our re-opening is layered and complicated:

We need venues to open, but live music isn’t restricted to clubs and theatres. Thousands of performances happen in churches, parks, libraries, seniors homes, and other community spaces. Most of us can’t make a living until all venues open at full capacity.

Did you know that many concerts at churches, community centres, and even theatres are fully or partially staffed by volunteers? Before they can host a concert, venues will need to recruit volunteers, create a safe work environment, and provide special training for ever-changing restrictions and guidelines. 

For a Christian duo like Infinitely More, we need to follow the lead of local churches. Many of them still aren’t gathering in person. Some have lost members and resources along the way. It will take a period of time for them to regroup and settle into a new normal before they can take on an “extra” event like hosting a concert. 

Most full-time musicians travel. We need to consider the safety of hotels, planes, public washrooms and dine-in restaurants, in Canada and across the border. Many of us find accommodations with friends, family and billets. How comfortable will any of us feel staying in someone else’s home and eating at their table? 

The insecurity of long-range planning is a new issue. Venues of all shapes and sizes had to cancel all their 2020 programming. Many are hesitant to put events on the books until things are easier to predict. As you can imagine, this varies across the country, complicating the already-complicated world of touring. 

There’s the issue of money. How will heavy and unpredictable tour finances play out in a post-pandemic economy? Will venues be able to pay fees or guarantee ticket sales? Will audience members have extra cash for tickets or merchandise? 

As venues cancelled events last year, many artist bookings were simply deferred to 2021. That means that concert series and other commercial and community venues already have their performers secured for this year, and won't have openings for another full year.


Which leads to the most complicated part of the equation: booking events is a long game. 
There’s often a 3-12 month gap between booking a concert and the actual performance. Assuming any of us can get back to our 2019 numbers, both in terms of fees and performance schedule, that still means a 3-12 month gap before we can earn a full-time income.


This is “The Gap” I fear. 

And this is “The Gap” where we, and all full-time musicians, now find ourselves. 


There are fantastic groups on all levels working to ease this transition, create safe venues, and advocate for financial support. We’re grateful for their commitment.

As things start to open up, there’s a genuine excitement in the air. People are anxious to leave their homes, travel, and attend events. We’re hoping this means full audiences who are eager to buy tickets and CDs. 


But the simple truth is this: 
Being an artist is hard anytime, and this season has been uniquely difficult. 


Every day, social media contains yet another post by a talented musician “announcing” their new career in real estate or bookkeeping. Artists are regularly sharing testimonies of lost creativity and productivity. Our arts community has suffered and is suffering. Many won’t survive. I worry for the career artists who can’t see the next chapter, and the new artists who can’t even write their first page. 

Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it’s now going to take a village to reopen the performing arts industry. We’ll need financial support for individuals, venues and organizations. We’ll need a vaccinated country that’s not living in fear of disease. We’ll need committed staff and volunteers who can safely support live performances. And we’ll need artists who are physically, emotionally, psychologically, creatively, and financially healthy.

As artists, all we want to do is make art and share it with the world. 
Art is never complete until it’s shared with an audience. 
Trust me when I say, we can’t wait to perform for you! 

Let’s hope it can happen soon ... 

 

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Want to help Infinitely More in "The Gap"? 

Please visit our STORE to purchase music or make a donation. 
Please CONTACT us to book live or online concerts, workshops, and worship services.



 

Guest Blogger! 

Today, I'm the guest blogger for Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship.

You can find my post HERE




Book Review: A Tapestry of Light, by Kimberly Duffy 

One of my 2021 Reading Challenges was to read a book 
"based in a country I've never read about."

Can you believe I'd never read a novel set in India??

I'm so happy A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy 
was the book to fulfil that challenge!

A Tapestry of Light opens in 1885 Calcutta. Our heroine, Ottilie, has already seen more than her share of hardship, and today is no different. We meet her at her mother's funeral. At only 20, Ottilie now bears responsibility for her grandmother and her young brother. Her physical strength and her faith in God are barely holding up.

But Ottilie has a special talent - beetle-wing embroidery. Yes, you read that correctly. Actually embroidery with beetle wings! If you love handicrafts like me, all the descriptions of this specialized artistry will make your heart swoon! I spent hours googling and drooling over photos...

Embroidery becomes a theme and a metaphor throughout this incredibly lush and romantic book. 


Beetle-wing Embroidery
Source: Wikipedia 
Ottilie is both British and Indian, simultaneously belonging to both and neither. When her family's British past shows up in an unexpected way, Ottilie must make hard decisions about her family's future. What entails is a journey through cultures, class, and racial tension. I really don't want to give away any plot points, so I'll just say I loved the way Ottilie's story unfolded! The plot kept me fully engaged, without ever sacrificing detailed descriptions of cities, clothing, and countryside. The characters are engaging and beautifully developed.

Kimberly does a great job of putting us in a very tactile world. We can taste the Indian spices, hear the sounds of the neighbourhood, and feel every breath of weather. In full disclosure, I know very little about British/Indian history. I found myself looking up words like "Cawnpore" and "Nana Sahib", but isn't that part of why we love historical fiction? The best historical fiction doesn't just give us a great story - it gives us a unique and personal glimpse into history. More often than not, we get to experience chapters of history - usually about women or the disenfranchised - that rarely make it into the history books.


At 400+ pages, A Tapestry of Light is a hefty read, but worth every moment. I loved the world of the book, the characters, the artistry, the Victorian sensibility, and yes, the beetle-wing embroidery!

Brew yourself a cup of tea, visit your local Indian bakery for a dish of rasmalai, 
and allow A Tapestry of Light to transport you to another time and place. 


Here's an offer you don't hear every day: 

If your book club is discussing one of Kimberly's books, 
she'd love to join you via Skype or Zoom! How cool is that???

For more info, please visit Kimberly's site:

KimberlyDuffy.com


This contemporary artist shares details of her creation HERE. 



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

A Complicated Canada Day 

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”

Romans 12:15 NIV

Healing Fire at the Niagara Regional Native Centre, Niagara-on-the-Lake


Today, we’ve held conflicting emotions in our hands:

We’ve spent the last decade touring every province in Canada. 
We’ve seen firsthand the beauty, grace, and generosity of our diverse and beautiful people.

We also mourn the loss and mistreatment of indigenous children. 
We recognize the role of our government in this abuse, 
but even worse, we recognize the role of our churches.


This morning, we visited the Healing Fire at the Niagara Regional Native Centre. We heard singing & drumming. We were invited to add medicines to the fire, and lift our prayers for healing. We gathered to “mourn with those who mourn.”

In the afternoon, we spent time exploring our beautiful Niagara countryside, soaking in the glorious sunshine. We shared a piece of cake with our neighbours. We connected with family online, counting down the days til we can finally see each other in person.


Mourning. Rejoicing. Conflicting emotions. 


I wish I could give you some great succinct nugget of wisdom today, but the truth is, there is no simple way to sum up how we feel today. We, as a country, as communities, as individuals, are working through something dark and complicated. 

It’s going to be hard. It should be hard. 


When we were invited to add medicines to the fire, we asked, 
“As non-indigenous people, is it okay for us to do this?” 

The fire tender answered, 
“People are people. We all need healing.”


Oh Canada, may we mourn, may we heal, 
and may our journey together transform us into something better. 

Amen...



Book Review: The Peace Project, by Kay Wills Wyma 

I don't know about you, but I feel like the last 18 months have been desperately lacking in Peace. Inner peace, community peace, and world peace have been replaced by inner turmoil, community protests, and world unrest. 

When I saw the title The Peace Project
I knew this was a book I needed to read right now.

Before even opening the cover (which is so striking, by the way!), I noticed the forward is written by Ron Hall, co-author of Same Kind of Different as Me. I loved that book so much and still highly recommend it! You can read my review HERE.

On a busy morning, Kay Wyma backed out of her driveway, only to be met by a rude driver. Kay reacted like many of us do - cursing and swearing at the other driver from the safety of our own car. 

She texted a friend to share the encounter, but her friend's text didn't share her outrage. Instead, she shared a personal story of a time when a bad day made her the "rude driver."


That perspective started to shift something in Kay's heart. 
And that shift birthed The Peace Project.



Kay discovered that the combination of Thankfulness, Kindness, and Mercy (TKM) brought in waves of inner peace. She invited her friends and family on a 30-day practice to see if they could create more peace in their lives.

I will admit, this book went in a different direction than I expected. I thought this would be a 30-day guide with practical peace-making steps. I expected exercises and ideas for executing a peace plan.

Instead, Kay shares the stories of living out TKM in the midst of everyday life. The goal was to find a reason to practice each of the three every day. Some days, they happened naturally. Other times, they had to seek out or create opportunities. Thankfulness and Kindness seemed to be the easiest for Kay and her friends to access. Mercy became the real kicker. 

Kay's writing style is honest, personable, and really fun. Each chapter opens and closes with a quote inspired by the themes, and these alone are worth the price of admission. Most chapters close with a short paragraph written by one of Kay's friends and their own experience of living out one aspect of TKM. There's also space for you to track you own daily progress.

In the end, I'm glad this wasn't simply a "how to". I was inspired and engaged by the stories in this book. I don't think I've ever given so much thought to living out Mercy in my everyday life! And here's the thing, we all say we want Peace, but we define it as an "absence of conflict." How do we ever create an absence of anything??? Finding this TKM combination might just be the the secret formula to creating Peace in our homes, our communities, and maybe one day, in our world.


Kay is offering FREE gifts with pre-orders from her site (the pre-orders were still available as of today's blogpost date). Scroll down her Books page to also find FREE downloadable Bible studies! 
Here's the link:

https://kaywyma.com/books-stuff/



Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: Miriam's Song, by Jill Eileen Smith 

I've always held a fascination with the women of the Bible. God chose these diverse women to be part of His story, and yet so often, we're given such tiny slivers of information about them.


A few years ago, I was asked to preach a sermon about Miriam 
for a Women of the Bible sermon series. 

You can watch my sermon on Miriam HERE.


Sister to Moses and Aaron, Miriam plays a key role in the story of the Israelites. We meet her several times over the full course of her life - from a little girl, putting her baby brother in a basket in the Nile, to a prophetess singing in the desert, to her death as an old woman - yet, in-between these moments, we hear so little about her.


That's why I was excited to read Miriam's Song
a new historical fiction by Jill Eileen Smith.

Smith has become an expert on recreating the stories of the women of the Old Testament. She has a passion for discovering the details of everyday life for women of that time. These details create a visceral and compelling world for the characters of Miriam's Song.


For example, after mixing pitch for Moses's basket, his parents decide,

"'We will bury the bowls, for there is no time to clean them well.' ... Bowls were scarce, and it would take time to make more. But it would be easier to make new ones than try to clean the old."


What a fantastic detail! Living in our own single-use society, I loved this line. What a reminder that things couldn't just be bought or easily replaced. Everything they owned had to be handcrafted in the scarce time that remained after a day of slave labour.


From food to clothing to housing, 
Smith gives us a full picture of Miriam's everyday life and duties.

The one challenge with the novel is the original issue with Miriam's story - we know so little about her! In writing Biblical historical fiction, the author always needs to manage a careful balance. Do I simply write within the limited story I'm given, or do I fill in the gaps and run the risk of rewriting the Bible?

Smith chooses to flesh out the parts of Miriam's story given in the Bible. But rather than invent stories not in Scripture, she fills in the missing pieces by switching over to Moses and telling his story. (She addresses this directly in the "Note to the Reader" at the end of the book.)

The whole story is compelling, but to be honest, I wish she'd stayed with Miriam the whole time. The storyline of the Exodus is difficult and emotional. I really wanted to stay with our heroine and allow her to be our guide through the trials and successes. That said, Smith does a wonderful job exploring the conflict within Miriam's heart - she knows God has called her to be part of His story, yet she feels so restricted in her sidelined role. 

How many people, especially women, can still resonate with this today???

There's such power in creating a novelized form for a woman like Miriam. It's so easy for us to judge the importance of a Bible character by the number of lines dedicated to her in Scripture. 


By writing this book, Smith has given Miriam a heart, 
a family, and a voice.
Her's is a story worth sharing...


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: That Sounds Fun, by Annie F. Downs 


Since the pandemic hit, I've had no head for reading non-fiction. 
I'm devouring fiction and poetry like they're freshly baked chocolate chip cookies (mmmm, cookies!) but non-fiction has just become a slog. Still, I keep at it. 

When I saw this book for review, I decided to give it a go.
I mean, with a title like this, it has to be fun, right?

Well, I'm thrilled to say I inhaled this book!

That Sounds Fun is the next step in Annie F. Downs' mission to help us all find the fun in our lives. Based on her hit podcast, That Sounds Fun is an exploration of the many and varied ways we can incorporate joy into the everyday. We all know that something is missing in this world, a brokenness we all struggle to define. For Annie, fun isn't petty or frivolous. What if discovering what each of us, uniquely and individually, finds fun is actually necessary to filling that empty space? What if seeking fun is the pathway back to Eden?


The book is divided into five main sections: 
What Sounds Fun To You?
The Joys of Being an Amateur
The Power of Falling in Love
Why You Need a Hobby
Chase the Fun

Each chapter tells easy, relatable stories of exploring fun in different ways. It's easy to see why Annie is such a successful communicator. I chose not to listen to her podcast until I was finished the book, but even so, I could still hear her voice while I was reading. She really is (to use her own description) "... a friend you can have coffee with and sometimes talk about the Bible."


My favourite section was Why You Need a Hobby because a few years ago, 
I needed a hobby! 

Somewhere, along the way, probably while moving 7 times in 9 years, my hobbies got sidelined. Not cancelled completely, but tucked away in a box for special occasions.  When we bought our house and I realized we weren't going to move for a while, I decided it was time to crack open that box. Over the last 5 years, I've completely re-fallen-in-love with painting, crafting, reading, and gardening. My hobbies bring me joy, and I've found new ways I can use them to bless other people. 

More importantly, when the world stopped and 
live performing was banned and we were grounded, 
my hobbies were there to save my life.


We're still in a pandemic. We're still grounded. We're all still struggling.
More than ever, we need to find the things that fill us with joy.
We need to connect with the Creator.

I can't think of a better time for the world to receive the gift of That Sounds Fun.

So grab a soft blanket, draw an extra-long espresso, 
balance a puppy and a plate of cookies on your lap, 
and dig into this inspiring new book.

Because if you ask me, "That sounds fun..." 






Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Book Review: All That We Carried, by Erin Bartels 

As soon as I saw Erin Bartels had a new book, I knew I needed to read it. Two years ago, I read her historical fiction, We Hope For Better Things, and I still recommend it to people! 

You can read my original review HERE.

All That We Carried introduces us to Olivia and Melanie, two adult sisters with a desperately broken relationship. After a decade of near-estragement, Olivia reluctantly agrees to a hiking trip with Melanie, and that's where our adventure begins.

The inexperienced hikers take on the challenging trails of the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Thanks to a handy map in the front of the book, we're invited to follow the pathway for ourselves. If you're like me, you can't help but google photos of the real life trails and waterfalls, some of which I've included in this post!



Trap Falls


As Olivia and Melanie work their way through the trails, their legacy of family tragedy is revealed. I don't want to share too much of the plot because, like any good hike, it's best enjoyed step by step. The hiking trip brings dangers of its own, and with each new challenge, the sisters are forced to face the broken spaces in their relationship. Tensions grow as Olivia and Melanie wrestle with questions of themselves, their views of the world, and the things they assume to be true. 

Who can we trust?
How do we forgive?
How do we rebuild?
What do we believe in?
Why believe at all?


Petoskey Stone (Melanie's town is named for this geological wonder!)


All That We Carried reads quickly, but there's still lots of depth in the relationships and the philosophical ideas. I found myself underlining favourite passages and turning down page corners.

And let's not forget the setting! 
Bartels never lets you forget the glory of nature in the fall, 
while also sharing the tactile truths of wilderness living.


Side Note: 
I miss touring so much! 
This made my heart yearn for ocean and mountains and waterfalls.
But in a hotel, please. 
You won't see me sleeping in the woods anytime soon!


Part adventure novel, part "road trip", part spiritual debate, part healing journey, and part parable - 
I loved reading All That We Carried! 


Bonus: visit Erin Bartels' site HERE 
for interviews & articles about the novel!


Lake of the Clouds


Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Impossible Sunrise 

Happy Easter! 

This weekend, we’ve reached the grand finale of our Infinitely More 

We’re thrilled to share our Easter video! 
Featuring our very special guest preacher, Bishop Susan Bell of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara.

We’re also debuting a brand new song by Gerald called Impossible Sunrise.

Don’t you just love that title?

Impossible Sunrise…

Lenten Musical Calendar - Happy Easter!


We created this video in a swirl of emotions. 
Our parents have finally received their first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine! Spring flowers are bursting through the ground. It finally feels like there’s hope on the horizon.

But case numbers are on the rise here in Ontario. 
We’ve entered yet another lockdown. Medical authorities fear this may not be enough to quell the rise of the variants. We are all exhausted by the isolation, the uncertainty, and the constant stream of bad news.

For the second year in a row, we’re celebrating Easter - a story of new life - 
in a season marked by suffering, illness, and death.

How does any of this make sense?

And then, I remember that song title again: 
IMPOSSIBLE Sunrise.


The angel tells Mary, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible.”

Jesus says, “... with God all things are possible.”

God says, “I am the Lord... Is anything too hard for me?”

On Easter morning, the women arrived with spices in their hands.
They were ready to anoint a body. 
Instead, they came face-to-face with the God of the Impossible.


This is the God who gives knowledge to scientists and medical experts.
The God who can heal our communities of political and racial strife. 
The God who can revive our struggling arts communities and small businesses. 
The God who can strengthen weary essential workers. 
The God who can rebuild marriages breaking under close quarters, 
and relationships suffering from too much distance. 

This is the God who can bring gratitude grace, love, and joy 
into our tired, pandemic-weary hearts.

Take a deep breath.
Remember who God is.

And then remember: this is the God who loves YOU!

This Easter, more than ever, may we experience the God of the Impossible!


“And the world awakes to an Impossible Sunrise!
 Yes, we finally believe when we see the love in His eyes.
  Yes, the world awakes to an Impossible Sunrise!”


Impossible Sunrise
Written by Gerald Flemming
CCLI# 7173690

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Today’s post is part of a blog-tour to celebrate the release of 
Inscribe Christian Writer's Fellowship's brand new anthology 

Featuring my own real-life story: 
Aunt Pauline and The Little Easter.

Lynn Simpson is also offering her own blogpost today. 

You can purchase your copy of Easter: Stories & More 
on our SITE.

HAPPY EASTER!



Book Review: The Moonlight School, by Suzanne Woods Fisher 



Okay, I could pretend that I chose this book because it's historical fiction (which I love!) or because it's about a woman breaking the glass ceiling (you go, girl!) or because it's set in a time and place I haven't read about before (always fascinating!), 
but no.

This book description contained one line that got me 
hook, line, and sinker:

"Brother Wyatt, a singing school master..."

What??? A book about singing schools??? 

SIGN. ME. UP!!!


If you know my story, you know that attending a singing school changed my life
In all the books I've read, I've never encountered singing schools at all, so how could I resist?

And to clarify: this isn't a book about singing schools. 


Welcome to Rowan County, Kentucky, spring 1911. The world is moving from the straight-laced Victorian era into a new century. Cities are vibrant, modern centres, but in the rural mountain communities, tradition still maintains a stronghold. This is the world of The Moonlight School.

Our heroine, the fictional Lucy Wilson, desperately needs to experience a new chapter in life. She leaves the comforts of her affluent city life to work for her cousin in the school system of Rowan County.

Cora Wilson was a real-life trail blazer. In a time when women struggled for their place in society, she led the way in the field of education. She won her position of school superintendent in a landslide election, and her idea for "moonlight schools" literally transformed literacy in her state.

Without giving too much away, The Moonlight School is really Lucy's story. It's a story of facing your own preconceived notions, questioning the status quo, and finding your purpose in life. Lucy is a worthy protagonist, forcing us to challenge the prejudices we so often hold when it comes to entering new corners of the world.

If anything, the title of the book is a bit misleading. This isn't a book about Cora Wilson, and the concept of the moonlight schools doesn't enter the story until at least halfway through the book. That said, Woods Fisher has definitely done her research. I felt fully immersed in the Rowan County's politics, class divisions, and tactile details. I found myself genuinely craving mountain air and an all day church singing.


A brief side note on shape notes:

Shape Notes are a way of teaching music literacy where the shape of the note corresponds to its pitch within the scale. It's not related to the rhythm, as implied in this book. I know most people won't read The Moonlight School for the shape notes, but this distinction is important to me. People who learn shape notes can literally sight-read any song written in shapes, and can easily work out harmony parts. 
If you love music, I highly recommend digging into this topic on your own! 
Shape notes!



The Moonlight School is a light, enjoyable read 
with engaging characters in a dynamic time and place. 

I recommend reading the book, 
and then digging into the fascinating real-life history, as seen in the photo below...


A real life Moonlight School.