As a performer on Live Music Now’s recital scheme, it could have been easy for artistic quality to be taken for granted or not delivered at the highest level, because of the intrinsic logistical and presentational challenges of each concert. But this never happened. The culture and expectation of excellence was present throughout the whole of our application, training and initiation onto the scheme, and as we developed as artists and professionals we were able to carry these values forward, always seeking the very best level of achievement. The end result was that every performance was approached with the same seriousness and commitment, regardless of whether it was in a concert hall or a retirement home.
Over the couple of years that we were with Live Music Now, we must have performed to several thousands of people. But what was notable was the diversity of that audience. The vast majority of our workshops and concerts were for people who would not usually have access to live music. We didn’t always realise at the time what impact our work was having — but some of the positive feedback we’d receive weeks after each event made apparent the depth to which our music had been appreciated. For people in palliative care or with special needs, it was often an enormous highlight and extreme moment of relief in an otherwise painful or deteriorating existence.
As a musician for Live Music Now, I had a real opportunity to test out new skills in a way that went far beyond my traditional ‘music college’ training. In addition to learning to cope with almost any situation (!) without being fazed by a challenging performance environment, we were able to try out new musical and presentational ideas in a way that would not be possible with a ‘traditional’ concert hall audience. This led to the acquisition of new skills that we not only use in outreach work now (several years later), but also fed back into our concert work. In 2011, my group was booked as the ‘musicians in residence’ of Henley Festival (one of the UK’s leading Classical festivals), and our entire scope of work was informed by what we had learned with Live Music Now. This included creating innovative presentational styles for our ‘shows’, and improvising and leading children in a collaboration with their Youth Orchestra. The skills developed during our LMN membership have proved themselves time and time again as invaluable to our work.