Guest post by Raffaelo Morales, Director of Fidelio Orchestra and Fidelio Orchestra Café
Classical music is not an easy enterprise. Both musicians and non-musicians know it. From those who have no idea of what it is about to those who know its challenges inside-out, the discipline is no doubt perceived as one with high barriers to entry as well as huge maintenance costs. To complicate things even further, the recent events, that have shaken the world like nothing else I can think of in my life so far, have plunged the world of classical music into a crisis, one it could never have imagined even in its worst nightmare: an industry resting for its largest part on live performances all of a sudden saw the disappearance of any possibility to get in front of an audience, for an unlimited time.
The world has shown a variety of actions to such emergency, with certain countries responding better than others, according to their resources. Most European countries have by now made a plan on how to get things going again and there is hope, and a growing sense of confidence, that by the end of 2020 things will be on track to a new normality.
I was quite puzzled by the way the UK government has handled the whole crisis from the start and back in March, I made the decision to shut down operations even before a proper lockdown was enforced. Fidelio Orchestra Café was created with the mission of bringing people together around music and in those troubled days such a plan was simply not viable.
While things seems be incredibly slow to get into motion and very little is expected to be going on over the summer, I thought a good idea to help kickstart live music again – and hopefully “give the A”, to use a musical metaphor, for other institutions to put on similar initiatives – would be that of presenting a small live concert series, planned in such a way as to make the safety of the audience and the performers a priority. Our Fidelio Orchestra Café can perfectly meet the challenge, taking the due precautions.
We have been lucky enough to find enthusiastic responses from some of the most accomplished musicians in London to be part of such initiative. The line up will include the following people: Steven Isserlis playing two Bach cello suites and Walton’s Passacaglia; Samson Tsoy and Alina Ibragimova in duo for piano and violin; Pavel Kolesnikov playing an all-Chopin recital; Louis Schwizgebel presenting Debussy Estampes and Mussorgsky’s Picture at an Exhibition; Charles Owen in a romantic piano recital including works by Liszt, Schumann and Chopin and actor Simon Callow reading Shakespeare sonnets.
All concerts will be followed by a dinner prepared by chef Alan Rosenthal. These evenings are meant to be a way of returning to live performances in a very intimate context (a maximum of 25 people will be admitted to each concert, in order to guarantee distancing), providing something to look forward to in a summer whose cultural offerings currently look rather poor.
With this project I want, first of all, to give an opportunity to those musicians involved to share their art with a real audience after many months of silence. In order to admit more than those that one evening alone can accommodate, the artists will repeat their concerts on up to five consecutive evenings. Secondly, I think it’s really important at this stage to be pro-active in getting things going. Things can be done in a safe manner and it is of critical importance that musicians re-establish a connection with the audience as soon as possible. Both need it.
There is also a third aim for this project, one that is perhaps even more ambitious than the others, and it is that this model can be deployed over the months ahead to give performing opportunities to as many as possible from those young musicians who will be struggling to find engagements and performing platforms due to reduced demand. The music industry should take care of these people as they represent the next generation to come onstage and more often than not they have a great talent to showcase.
The idea is therefore that the big names part of the opening series will be the front-runners of a broader project aimed at bringing lesser-known musicians onstage over the coming months.
The music community needs to stay united through these difficult times and I am glad to be able to make a contribution to help the classical music community restart. I hope that other music institutions in London will also be encouraged to produce similar projects over the coming months.
Concerts at Fidelio Orchestra Café begin on 7 July with a performance by cellist Steven Isserlis
Raffaello Morales is founder and director of the Fidelio Orchestra and director of the Fidelio Orchestra Café in Clerkenwell, London, entirely dedicated to the promotion and dissemination of classical music.