Virtual Verdi – A chorus to get us through

by | May 3, 2020 | Ambassador thoughts

To musicians and music-lovers alike, the longing for live music to return is becoming overwhelming.

Week after week I receive notifications from my Google Calendar of a concert I was to attend, a performance engagement I was supposed to have, a concert I was supposed to review, a choir rehearsal I was going to assist with… I don’t have the heart to go through my calendar and delete them all. It would be too much.

We’re past the point of receiving the dreaded ‘COVID-19 Cancellation’ headline from event organisers to our email inbox offering us a refund, with some asking for the ticket to be donated.

Australia has ‘flattened’ our ‘curve’ (with still much work to do) and we are experiencing an ‘in between’ period where restrictions are beginning to be relaxed but public gatherings without social distancing still seem well off – and all at the same time, seems something of the past or ‘before’.

Okay, perhaps now I’m being a little too dramatic. A shameful binge of verismo operas from the Metropolitan Opera will do that to a young baritone…

Positive things are happening

Whilst our community is struggling financially and dearly missing the events that it hosts, it is so overwhelmingly clear that positive things are happening:

  • Community choirs and orchestras are innovating with pre-recorded and edited performances from the lounge room. Conductors are becoming ‘renaissance’ men and women, scrambling to learn the intricacies of audio and video editing software.
  • Brand new online music festivals are appearing across all genres where fans can tune in and purchase a ‘ticket’ or add to a ‘tip jar’.
  • Jam sessions and song-writing sessions are happening via video conferencing (even poetry slams and full-length Shakespeare readings!)
  • Old musician friends from all around the world are re-uniting and talking about what they’ve been up to during their time apart.
  • Musicians are giving public masterclasses from their lounge rooms to help the next generation of artists.
  • …and concert hall and opera seasons around the world are still being announced for 2021 and beyond.
  • People are staying at home. They are wisely following strict social distancing.

    Solidarity and adaption

    People are sticking together [ironically] in a time of great distance from one another.

    In seeing these trends occurring in the world around me, the word ‘solidarity’ comes to mind.

    In the more ‘common’ circumstances of catastrophe – flood, fire or famine – people come together to help rebuild towns, put out fire or deliver food aid. However, this time we must stay apart to slow infections and allow our experts to do what they must.

    Though most of our niche community will remain physically well as they stay at home, the impacts on its mental health have been and will continue to be challenging, at best.

    Attending a weekly choir practice, a lunchtime concert in the local church or a symphonic concert at the Opera House is a refuge for those vulnerable members in our community.

    Sadly, live music-making and the performance experience as we know it is now over for some time.

    Once, perhaps even just last year, classically trained musicians would have thought it ineffective or futile to perform ‘together’ online. Pre-recording separate tracks was only ‘something done in the contemporary music scene’. No ‘connection’ between players could be achieved and the difficulty in timing everything precisely would render it unworthy of the time invested by players.

    Today, it is all we have if we wish to continue making music together.

    It’s obvious that our community (mentally ill, or not) can benefit from the closest thing we have to making music together; and in 2020 we’re able to do that with capable technology at our disposal (bandwidth permitting…)

    There are few better ways to achieve both global ‘solidarity’ and quality music-making in our niche community than to have classical musicians and lyric singers join forces for the ultimate operatic anthem; a ‘song’ heralding in the Italian Risorgimento of the 19th century. The archetypal chorus of hope – the Va, pensiero‘ chorus from Giuseppe Verdi’s Nabucco.

    Yes, we’ve already seen the incredible Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus pull this one together with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the digital podium. And wasn’t that something to behold…!

    Musical Solidarity Project

    The good news is, other musicians, singers and opera fans can join in the chorus too with the ‘Musical Solidarity Project’ that has been launched from an apartment in Italy.

    Last week I joined this community and gave them one of Australia’s first entries from my bedroom in Wollongong, south of Sydney. In just two takes with my iPhone, I had joined an international opera chorus. The good news is, you can too!

    Launched by soprano Nofar Yacobi, who has been under a 7-week lockdown, this opportunity allows people from all over the world to join in on an operatic classic.

    The project has been endorsed and joined by members of Israeli Opera, The Royal Conservatory, Berlin Opera Academy, NZ Opera, Opera Canada and even our own Victorian Opera.

    You have until May 11 to download your score, learn your part (no need to memorise) and submit your entries. The project wants to see as much of the map below as green as possible! Where green colour mapping indicates where current entries have already been received from. If you have relatives or friends from the grey parts of this world map, urge them to get in front of their selfie camera for a sing-song or to play their instrument – presto, per favore!

    Virtual Verdi wtih The Musical Solidarity Project

    Make the world ‘Verdi’ (green). The project aims to have someone from every country join in the chorus.

    And after all this crazy is over, come and sit with me in the cheap seats at the Joan Sutherland Theatre again. I can’t wait!

    Virtual Verdi wtih The Musical Solidarity Project

    Update from the Music Solidarity Project

    A unique, accessible and diverse global collaboration between 55 opera houses, theatres, cultural institutions and about 500 musicians from all over the world – from world class artists to passionate amateurs – breaking together all geographical, institutional and social boundaries, in order to send a message of hope through music.

    Watching and listening to this 100% voluntary non-profit collaboration will give you a powerful reminder of how much beauty and goodness we have in this world. Your heart will open, and so will your soul.

    Enjoy!

    You can read more about the project here.

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