Blindfolded and seated in a dark lecture hall of the Rogers Communications Centre, 85 students patiently wait for the second annual Darkness Concert to start. Concertgoers chat and mingle until the sound of a guitar strum rings out – then there is silence.
Organized by the student groups Chinese Students Association (CSA), Musicians @ Ryerson, and Poetic Exchange, the Darkness Concert is exactly what its name suggests: live performances in the dark.
“The idea is that with the loss of one sense, all your other senses are heightened so you can fully experience the music,” said Victor Copetti, president of the Musicians @ Ryerson.
The concert featured various performances by Ryerson students, from acoustic acts to instrumental bands and spoken word artists.
The idea for the concert came from a former president of the CSA, Boris Yu. Yu found inspiration for the showcase after going to eat at O’Noir, a restaurant located at Yonge and Wellesley streets where diners eat in complete darkness.
When he came up with the idea to organize a concert in the dark, Yu knew that donating the proceeds to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) was the right thing to do.This year, the event raised approximately $300 dollars for the CNIB.
“Normally when we do events where you have to pay, people tend to avoid it,” said Copetti. “But it’s for charity, and we got a turnout that we’ve never seen before.”
Ryerson alumna and CNIB volunteer Lisa Derencinovic opened the concert with a speech about her experience living with impaired vision. Diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age four, Derencinovic has been working with CNIB since high school, where she first learned how to use a white mobility cane to gain more independence.
Retinitis pigmentosa is a degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment and can lead to blindness. For Derencinovic, her illness began to take a serious toll on her life in high school and she knew she’d have to find a way to live independently, especially when she would move on to university.
Thanks to the CNIB’s orientation and mobility skills program, Derencinovic was able to easily commute to Ryerson from Scarborough as well as navigate to classes and various offices on campus.
“The CNIB is very thankful and honoured that Ryerson chose us to have this fundraiser,” said Derencinovic during her opening speech. “We live in a very visual society and to take the time to experience what it’s like to not have vision is really interesting.”
Several audience members said that while in the dark, they could point out components of the music that they would never have noticed otherwise.
“Whether it’s the melody line, lyrics or percussion, you just become so much more aware of (the music) and that just makes you think even more,” said third-year arts and contemporary studies student and performer Maricris Rivera.
According to Rivera, the concert lets students experience music in a completely different way. Although the blindfold and darkness made her feel vulnerable, she said it felt like the music transported her to a different dimension.
“I thought to myself, ‘oh my God, I can be anywhere right now. I have no idea what’s going on and what could happen,’ which is a different kind of sensation for sure,” said Rivera.
Click here to listen to the performances.