Classical comeback: the pandemic proves the need to support musicians and orchestras

Ekn March 2020, live classical music and much of cultural life worldwide came to an abrupt halt overnight. Sedertdien, we have seen the gradual reopening of concert halls in all four nations of the UK, as organisers, orchestras and musicians struggle to recover a loss of income, talent and confidence on an unprecedented scale.

As we enter 2022, it’s far from life as usual. Most institutions report that only around 65% of pre-pandemic capacity had been reached before the emergence of the Omicron variant. Undoubtedly, more government intervention is needed if the sector is not to be diminished further. Music is the soundtrack to our lives and classical musicians are major contributors to the UK’s reputation for cultural innovation and excellence.

Egter, for all of its darkness, the pandemic has allowed us to reimagine what our musical world could look like if we start from scratch. Throughout the crisis, the industry has begun to construct a new narrative shaped to accommodate great artistic expression for everyone. As we rebuild our society and our economy, I’m convinced, meer as ooit, that participation in music is part of the solution for national recovery. Participating in musical activity sustains us through the most perplexing and difficult moments of our lives.

I have been hugely inspired by the remarkable and uplifting endorsements of the role of music within our wider community and for people of all ages and backgrounds. I have seen what music does for those living with dementia through Wigmore Hall’s pioneering Music For Life en Singing with Friends programmes. We also reach some of the most marginalised people in society, including those who have experienced homelessness, domestic abuse and children living with HIV, a forgotten minority.

English National Opera’s Breathe, another example, draws on the expertise of opera singers and colleagues at Imperial College Healthcare to help hundreds of long Covid sufferers across the UK to improve their breathing and anxiety. Now rolled out to 50 health trusts nationwide, it vividly illustrates more than ever the worth of music in social prescribing.

As traditional concert venues were unable to operate properly, the vision of Bold Tendencies, watter 15 years ago reclaimed the Peckham multistorey car park as an exciting arts destination, for residents, with classical music at its heart, became an even more relevant blueprint for what could be emulated nationwide. Non-professional choral societies abound, connecting communities as never before. Other schemes highlighting the positive social impact of classical music include work in Hull focused on stroke recovery, mental health issues among teenagers (Sound Young Minds) and families affected by the criminal justice system (Lullaby Project).

The innovative work of these institutions is just the tip of an iceberg of music lovers across the country who strive daily to embed classical music within the UK’s social fabric. Their work, abetted by the social changes precipitated by the pandemic, has resulted in a radical new musical landscape. Never before has there been such a diverse variety of classical music performed by musicians across socioeconomic, gender and racial divides.

Many of our concerts or educational activities can be beamed into any home or school at little cost. A coordinated plan from government to use these amazing resources could work wonders for young people. Exposure to the arts at a young age builds confidence and empowers people to question and to explore and to make change happen. Every arts institution is doing work that could be shared with every child online. Exposure to the arts is life changing, life enhancing and the universal right of every citizen.

The industry as a whole has confronted the fact that too many people encounter barriers, real or perceived, to entering, remaining in or being successful in the sector and is determined to do something about it. As Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3, eloquently puts it, “The chance to experience classical music as an audience member, or to follow your talent, or choose a career in it, must not depend on your background or come about by chance.”

In 2022 I hope audience confidence grows as we begin to live with, rather than be locked in by, Covid. Concert halls and opera houses are among the safest public spaces and can provide a transcendental spiritual experience for as little as a fiver. Anecdotal reports of a vibrant young audience at concerts signify an uplifting trend that will be embraced by all. We have welcomed thousands of new concertgoers at Wigmore Hall this season, a palpable source of joy for musicians, staff and older audiences alike . Further afield, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie celebrates its fifth anniversary, having single-handedly trebled the city’s audience. The David Geffen Hall reopens this autumn to provide a home for the New York Philharmonic. An exciting year lies ahead.

John Gilhooly, director of Wigmore Hall and chair of the Royal Philharmonic Society, was made a CBE in the 2022 new year honours

Kommentaar gesluit.