British orchestras may not survive coronavirus pandemic, warn drivers | The music

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Two of the UK’s most influential conductors, Sir Simon Rattle and Sir Mark Elder, warned of a “devastated landscape” in classical music after the pandemic in which orchestras might not survive.

Rattle and Elder said UK musicians feel “in the wilderness” and called on the government to clarify when and how they can start playing again.

The performing arts, including theater, music and dance, will be some of the last activities to resume as the UK emerges from isolation. Without income, many arts organizations burn on reserves, and without targeted assistance, some will not survive.

In a letter to the Guardian, Rattle, the music director of the London Symphony Orchestra, and Elder, the music director of the Hallé Orchestra, describe the plight of classical music as hopeless.

“There is a real possibility of a devastated landscape on the other side of this; orchestras may not survive, and if they do, they may face insurmountable obstacles to remain solvent in our new reality. “

Wigmore Hall in London has started recitals without an audience and the organizers of the BBC Proms are hoping for two weeks of concerts at the end of the summer, probably without an audience.

But orchestral music is essentially a live experience, write Rattle and Elder, “and requires that all participants, artists and listeners, be in the same room together.” What we can do individually on the Internet during these months is all well and good, but the living core of our work is live communion, sharing of space, art and emotion which is both vital and curative. “

They say that learning to play while being physically distant will be more difficult than it seems, but it has to happen.

“We have to find a way to play together soon, even without an audience, if we are to maintain something like our normal standards, and we badly need the clarity of government, a timetable, when it might be and how it will be could be implemented. We understand that we cannot expect to return to everything as before; we will be creative and tireless in developing emergency plans and solving problems. “

Rattle and Elder said they hope the music will survive the pandemic. “We refuse to believe that live music will die, but it will not simply outlast energy and optimism. He will need support and understanding, especially when he ventures back into public. The first year of performance with fewer musicians in front of a much smaller audience will be our most difficult period, and we will need a little help to succeed. “

The government has set up a task force on cultural renewal to help chart a way back for the UK leisure and leisure industries and has been criticized for not having a music representative on the task force . The ministers maintain that music is well represented in the important working groups set up to develop guidelines for reopening.

Rattle and Elder highlights the experience in continental Europe where orchestras are gradually opening up and finding ways to cope with physical distance.

They write: “In the UK, we need to save time by learning what has already proven itself, rather than trying to start from the beginning, with people who are not performing arts making the decisions. Until we have a practical idea of ​​what our future might entail, the musicians of our country will continue to feel in the desert. “

Arts leaders in the UK warn that the position of performing arts companies is perilous. About 70% of cinemas say they will run out of money this year. Horace Trubridge, Secretary General of the Musicians’ Union, told MEPs this week: “We could very easily lose half the music rooms we have in the UK during this crisis, unless there is more permanent support. ”

West End producer Sonia Friedman said the performing arts face “the real possibility of complete erasure” without substantial government support, while director Sam Mendes said “that an ecosystem too complex and advanced cannot be rebuilt from scratch ”.

Industry leaders say they are not looking for a bailout, but investments that will prevent part of the UK’s leading arts sector from collapsing when it is most needed.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said this week that he was involved in “complex discussions” with the Treasury and suggested that an agreement be neared. “I will not sit idly by and see our position as world leader in the arts and culture destroyed,” he said.

“Of course, I want to pour the money, I’m not going to let anyone down. “

The letter Hochet / Elder

There are so many pressing issues in the UK that it takes courage to even mention the plight of classical music during the Covid-19 era.

There is a real possibility of a devastated landscape on the other side of this; orchestras may not survive and, if they do, they may face insurmountable obstacles in remaining solvent in our new reality. What we write applies, of course, to all types of music, not just classical music which is our area of ​​expertise. Our music is essentially a live experience and requires that all participants, artists and listeners, be together in the same room. What we can do individually on the Internet during these months is all well and good, but the living core of our work is live communion, sharing of space, art and emotion which is both vital and curative.

This healing will become more and more necessary in the time to come as we try to testify and understand what we have all gone through. In such an existential crisis, the awareness of our common vulnerability will surely change and deepen our relationship with all the arts. In our own domain, we wonder; how to find live music? How can we give our audience the courage to come back gradually?

More immediately, how to maintain musical continuity when the orchestras are silenced? And how can we feed a generation of young musicians whose prospects seem bleak when they begin their careers in this increasingly uncertain world?

The recent extension of the leave plan is a blessing and allows many organizations to hold on. For independent musicians, which include four of the London orchestras and others, huge problems remain. Currently, many freelancers find themselves in the cracks of government self-employment programs. We need to find a way to maintain some sort of income backbone so that we can eventually play whenever possible. At the most basic level, despite all appearances to the contrary, musicians are humans. They need to eat and pay their bills. But we must also play together and train, like any sports team, but in a completely new environment. Above all, this musical team is part of a complex structure that concentrates around and serves its hometown or hometown.

We will have to reinvent the wheel in so many ways. Learning to play while staying away from each other will be much more difficult than it initially appears.

Our sites will have to learn how to guide the public in and out of representations safely, and accept that at most only 25% of the capacity will be authorized, with all the economic effects that this reality implies. We have to find a way to play together soon, even without an audience, if we want to maintain something like our normal standards, and we badly need government clarity, a timeline, when it could be and how it can be. be implemented. We understand that we cannot expect to return to everything as before; we will be creative and tireless in developing emergency plans and solving problems.

All musicians of all genres share the wonderful problem of an art form which is basically songs transmitted to people in a room. When will our audiences have the chance to experience this again?

We refuse to believe that live music will die, but it will not simply outlast energy and optimism. He will need support and understanding, especially when he ventures back into public. The first year of performance with fewer musicians in front of a much smaller audience will be our most difficult period, and we will need a little help to succeed.

In continental Europe, orchestras are gradually opening up and finding different ways to solve the problems of distancing. Good practices are developing: in the UK, we need to save time by learning what has already proven itself, rather than trying to start from the beginning, with people who are not performing arts who make the decisions . Until we have a practical idea of ​​what our future might entail, the musicians of our country will continue to feel in the desert.

Sir Simon Rattle, OM, CBE, Music Director, London Symphony Orchestra

Sir Mark Elder, CH, CBE, musical director, Hallé Orchestra

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