First, may I wish you all a very happy and COVID free, if locked down, New Year. Sadly, I do not have anything of our own to offer you as yet but my hopes are pinned on a COVID free summer and some garden concerts.
While waiting, I wanted to recognise and celebrate the amazing efforts that music groups of all shapes and sizes have made to turn our screens into stages and our living rooms into concert halls. I can honestly say that I have listened to and watched more wonderful music over the last six months than in the previous six years put together.
Absolutely leading the pack as far as I am concerned is the Wigmore Hall who decided early on to continue to stage live concerts, often in conjunction with the BBC, with an audience of two – the presenter and the Wigmore Hall’s director, John Gilhooly. These have been live streamed but have then moved into the hall’s video library where many of them remain accessible for up to four years.
There has been an eclectic offering – from Bach to Britten, Messaien to Morton Feldman, Schubert to Schoenberg with the occasional conversation pieces with guests such as double bassist Leon Bosch, Rabbi Julie Neuberger or Jessica Duchen on Beethoven’s ‘Immortal Beloved’.
But I have also watched operas from the Metropolitan Opera House, from Glyndebourne and from the English Touring Opera, concerts from the LSO and Britten Sinfonia, more recently, streams from both DG (Signum Sax quartet coming up on the 22nd) and IDAGIO (a series dedicated to the study, preservation, and performance of the Negro Spiritual next on my list). And those are just the ones I remember.
Much of this music is offered free although always with a more than reasonable and justifiable appeal to listeners to donate something toward their costs; some now have very simple and modestly priced payment systems.
I know that everyone’s dearest desire is to get back to real live performances with real live audiences – and that this is obviously crucial for the financial viability of music making. But I do hope that when live music making resumes, much of the music made remains accessible to those who cannot actually be at those live concerts.
For what has been lost over the last nine months, how much has also been gained by those who have been able to watch music on line that they could never have hoped, for geographical, time or financial reasons, to have heard or watched in person. So while musical horizons may appear to have shrunk – maybe, like so much in this confusingly contradictory pandemic situation – they have in fact widened to include a far wider audience than they had before.