As teachers, it is important for us to continue fostering our creativity in performance. Nothing inspires both our students and ourselves like being able to play for students, their parents and their peers. We have established an annual series at St. Stephen’s in which our students, as well as members of the community and friends and family worldwide, can attend live performances of a wide variety of small ensemble music in a gorgeous, historic venue.
We are incredibly grateful to the support of the Royal Philharmonic Society Enterprise Fund in association with Harriet’s Trust, as this grant kick started our initial streamed concerts. Tickets and donations from both these and the American and Paris project have funded our 2022 series, and we aim to keep this self-sustaining momentum for years to come.
The Beginnings of the Concert Series: 2021
Shortly before the pandemic, we had begin to build momentum in starting a concert series at St. Stephen’s Church South Dulwich. Despite the unfortunate timing of lockdown, we managed to rehearse and present a series of three live streamed concerts throughout Spring of 2021. This culminated in the American in Paris project which, by that time, could also feature a small live audience.
The first few concerts, all entirely streamed, focused on Beethoven’s Legacy in music, drama and art. The first concert, featuring solo sonatas and verbal introductions, can be viewed here. The second, for piano trio, can be found here, and the third, for string trio, can be found here.
One major setback was the logistical challenge of making sure streaming equipment worked and that speech and playing were all audible when they needed to be. Being a performer and a technical troubleshooter at the same time were indeed difficult, and we would not wish to have to wear both hats again. We are pleased that in light of this project the church is now installing a live streaming system for ease of use in both services and future concerts.
Meanwhile, other setbacks produced surprisingly inspiring results. When a musician contracted covid, the musicians affected were able to learn an entirely new programme on a day’s notice! This was a truly incredible feat and we so appreciate the efforts and understanding that came from all involved. That concert ended up being a particularly memorable one as we appreciated the skill required of our colleagues to pull it off.
We also knew that this was one of many events being streamed during the depths of lockdown, and that the connection to the supportive local community was now less significant in an online setting. It would be difficult to encourage people to watch yet another streamed event. Even the American in Paris project that could have a small audience required additional caution and planning. We were able to use Eventbrite’s messaging system to inform our live audience members of what to expect on the day, to automatically retain contact details for track and trace, and to limit our audience number to a safe cap.
Sharing Live Music – Our Primary Goal that Continues Even Now
We decided that, although we encouraged our community of students, family and friends worldwide to attend and watch, that this series was meaningful to us and to the church no matter what audience we had. Our audience can watch even now with a simple click of the links above.
We set two goals: the church would continue to grow its local audience, and that we could find a way to share live performance with our community again despite the pandemic. Both of those goals were met!
You can watch both of the American and Paris programmes. The first one, found here, features solo instruments and small ensembles. The second, found here, contains Gershwin’s American and Paris as well as Rhapsody in Blue and a small ensemble rendition of Poulenc’s jazzy ballet, “Les Biches.”
Looking forward – 2022
We are thrilled to have another set of concerts coming up on 11th and 12th June, English Summer Fantasies, and even moreso that these concerts will be able to have a traditional live audience. We will still record these concerts for a post-live release online to reach the fans we have further afield. Seeing the post-live views of our 2021 projects, we believe people will continue to appreciate streaming options as ways to support performers’ work without having to be there in person.
Still, live is the most exciting way to enjoy music and we will be offering lots of variety this Summer to our live audiences. In line with the Jubilee celebration, we will be offering programmes of English music for solo, duo and small ensemble. Our theme will be fantasy and storytelling. There will also be a children’s workshop to engage children in the storytelling capabilities of music. We are particularly excited that this year’s selection gives both our adults and very young students opportunities to experience live music from their teachers.
Click the image below for further information and tickets. We look forward to seeing you at one of our June concerts!