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Review - Vocaleye Describes The Sound of Music

Kristy and Shawn at intermission, with green foliage and foggy mountain peaks behind them

It is the first of December in Vancouver and it is as if the weather gods are wagging their fingers at us in glee. The mercury can barely struggle past four degrees, the roads and sidewalks gleam with rain and what daylight there is trickles off by four o' clock in the afternoon.

Don't like it? Go to Mexico.

Me, I'd rather avoid crowded airports and flight delays.

So, boyfriend Shawn in tow, I take myself off to the Stanley Theatre and the verdant Austrian mountains for the Vocaleye Descriptive Arts Society's described performance of The Sound of Music.

We are buddy-less today, which means we elected to forego the sighted guide assistance to the theatre offered by Vocaleye. Stepping into the chaotic lobby of the Stanly without the strategic maneuvering of a guide throws me for a loop.

I have some usable vision – tunnel vision in my right eye that usually allows me to aim for a person or location when said person or location is in my field of focus.


I walk into that lobby and all my flustered eyes take in are swarms of unfamiliar people.

When I manage to unstick my feet, I start in the wrong direction.

Thank goodness for watchful Vocaleye volunteers!

Next time, I lecture myself, skip the bravado and arrange a buddy.

This is the thing I love most about Vocaleye – they offer you the opportunity to step out of the independent, self-advocate zone and into one of effortless, non-assuming accommodation.

I am very happy when Shawn and I are shown to our seats – front row, just left of centre – and I can settle back with an earpiece to listen to the pre-show notes being read by our describer Eileen.

I didn't think Eileen would have much to describe that night.


It was Sound of Music, after all. Everyone, young and old, knew the songs. I myself have watched the movie hundreds of times.


But a musical – any theatre production, really – is so much more than the music.

I listen to Eileen describe the characters, the costumes and the various sets and am struck, as I have been time and time again, by the value of live description to people with vision loss.

It's one thing to be familiar with names and circumstances and plot lines.

It's absolutely fascinating – and, sorry for the pun, eye-opening – to be clued in on hairstyles and wardrobe and quirky body language.

Eileen's descriptions of the abbey and the Von Trapp mansion brought into sharp focus – again, apologies for the vision pun – the contrast between quiet sanctity and sheer opulence.

In concert with the soaring arias, the jaunty live orchestra, the childish laughter, images imprint themselves on my mind's eye through the magic of live description.

Candlelight lighting the nuns' faces during vespers, Maria standing in her drab, mustard-coloured dress amidst the ornate furnishings at the Von Trapp mansion, the children holding their hands above their heads like antlers as they sing 'Doe, a Deer', Max's simultaneously avuncular and avaricious antics, elegantly coiffed and gowned women waltzing on a terrace under starlight.

My favourite description is of Maria and the Mother Abbess singing at the top of their lungs as they sit on the abbess's desk, swinging their feet.

During intermission, Shawn and I pose for a photo against the backdrop of hills that are alive with the sound of music.

I soak it all in and, afterward, feel the anticipation of the Christmas season swell within me.

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