WHAT WE’VE BEEN UP TO | This series, introduced in our classikON What’s ON (subscribe here), shares our Ambassadors thoughts at this time. They are voices of the audience, with a range of knowledge and history with music, for some music is their life and others it is an escape from their life.
I’ve been chatting to a community orchestra who is desperately waiting to get back together, in fact they are now gearing up to perform live concerts – although in quite a different environment than before the pandemic struck. All performances will be strictly monitored and will only last 1 hour. The orchestra and audience will all be safely distanced and full precautions to ensure the health and well being of all players and patrons has been planned for… it’s so exciting!! …but let’s go back. What have they been doing over this last period of no rehearsals or performances?
WSO musician Leah Lock got the inside scoop when she interviewed Artistic Director Dr Nicholas Milton OM…
LEAH: WSO recently launched a virtual series which releases a musical surprise each Friday at 3pm on facebook. What was the inspiration for the series?
NICK: Willoughby Symphony is an icon on Sydney’s North Shore with an enthusiastic and loyal community of supporters. In these unprecedented times, when many of our audience may be experiencing isolation and anxiety, the musicians and I felt it was incredibly important to maintain a connection with them. And while we would love to be sharing the thrill of live music, we unfortunately cannot do so to the extent that we would like.
… I am delighted that Willoughby Symphony has entered the digital realm with a new Facebook page where we are sharing weekly performances by our musicians.
We want to bring joy to all our fabulous supporters and hopefully we will introduce our wonderful orchestra to many new people. Viewers will experience intimate new videos of our musicians performing in their homes, empty venues and even beauty spots. It’s a chance to connect with and get to know the musicians better. There are also recordings from previous symphony concerts to relive and enjoy.
What’s the audience response been like?
We have been blown away by how well our online adventure has been received. Our Facebook page launched at the end of April and already has over 1100 followers. We kicked off our series of performances with a delightful virtual orchestra presentation of A Spoonful of Sugar from Mary Poppins featuring over 40 musicians from the orchestra and singers from Sydney’s Pacific Opera. We were all thrilled to learn that over 20 thousand people have watched that video and the subsequent videos have also been very well received. The warmth of the comments that we have received from the community has been a beacon of joy to our musicians during these difficult times.
How are the musicians coping under restricted conditions?
The musicians are coping well, but obviously, we all love playing together and miss seeing the happiness and joy we are privileged enough to be able to bring to our fellow citizens, we’re so looking forward to being on stage again soon, even if we need to be socially distanced.
What’s your plan for return to live events?
We’re planning a Mozart opera gala to be performed with singers from Sydney’s Pacific Opera. Our dear friend, the legendary Peter Coleman-Wright has put together a beautiful program of arias and ensembles from several Mozart operas, and we’ll present them in a delightful one hour program in late August at The Concourse. The orchestra and singers – and audience! – will all be socially distanced, so we can’t entertain our entire subscription base, but we’ll perform the program three times on that date. All three concerts were sold out within a couple of days. From there, we’ll take it a month at a time, always considering the safety ramifications for our musicians and our audience, and performing in strict observance of the health department’s regulations.
Any last thoughts to share?
Now, more than ever, music can play an important part in the lives of our family of music friends. It is our solace and our comfort, and what the musicians do transports joy and lifts spirits. Music unites all of us and keeps us connected to our audience. And all of us are hopeful, we’ll soon be bringing joy back into lives through the magic of music. Our virtual performance series is still in its early days but already there have been some thrilling moments. The Spoonful of Sugar video well and truly started things off with a bang. A video like that is so fun to watch but is the result of many hours of hard work and dedication from lots of talented people. Two of our younger musicians, recently engaged to one another, cellist Liam Meany and double bass player Isabella Brown, helped us shake off our worries with a delightful rendition of Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off, and since then, there have been countless priceless and wonderful moments, including a wonderful education presentation for children of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with our terrific colleague, George Ellis.
Follow WSO on facebook to catch their virtual series every Friday at 3pm