Whilst 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, the live music industries have been one of the hardest hit sectors, with both indoor and outdoor public performances in Wales still to be given the go-ahead. One music charity however has been thinking outside the box when it comes to reviving the land of song, through a series of pop-up ‘Doorstep Concerts’ across the country, celebrating their 30th year in Wales.
Live Music Now, the UK’s leading musicians’ development and outreach charity, would normally be delivering up to 3000 live performances in community settings across the UK, with around 400-500 of those in Wales. Like many in the performing arts industries their work all stopped in March of this year, leaving the professional musicians they work with unemployed and the thousands of vulnerable people they reach with their music each year more isolated than ever.
Director, Claire Cressey explains, “During the 2nd lockdown, with winter approaching fast we decided to re-capture some of the spirit of the first, where musicians voluntarily popped out on their doorsteps to entertain their neighbours at home. Thanks to a grant from the Arts Council Cultural Recovery Fund to reach those isolated at home we were in a position to pay our musicians to perform again, so several did just that over half term to entertain their neighbours. The concerts were such a success, moving many to tears we thought we would keep them going as long as the weather would allow!”
Over 30 concerts are taking place across South, Mid and North Wales on private doorsteps, to a limited number of socially distanced neighbours each time ensuring they are compliant with Covid safety rules. Not only have the concerts allowed musicians the chance to work again and perform to a live audience, but they have lifted the wellbeing of those isolated due to the pandemic, creating a sense of community once more at a time when it is needed most.
Musicians including Seren Winds, Top Brass, String Sisters and more have performed across Whitchurch, Roath, Llandaff and Llanishen in Cardiff as well as the counties of Bridgend, Swansea, Powys and Denbighshire over October – December 2020. LMN Wales founding Director and former UK Auditions Director, Gillian Green MBE also benefitted from some doorstep concerts as she celebrated her 30 years with LMN by officially retiring on 30th October following a hip replacement operation which saw her shielding indoors. Neighbours joined in the musical celebrations with Alumni Soprano Jessica Robinson and pianist Rhiannon Pritchard on the special day and enjoyed it so much a further two follow up concerts with different performers were planned.
“We enjoyed it enormously! All the more as they were not just talented musicians but lovely people!” commented one neighbour, “We are lucky to have them and their like near us. What a great way to start the winter, such a boost to hear live music again and so enjoyable.”
Another neighbour in Whitchurch added, “It has really brought our street together again. One older lady who lives alone has been very depressed and I saw her mood change as she came out to listen to the concert. Another lady in a wheelchair was wrapped up warm and brought out for the concert, and an older gentleman who used to regularly see concerts at RWCMD in Cardiff was brought to tears to hear live music again for the first time in 8 months. We are bringing our own mulled wine and mince pies for a socially distanced street party when Top Brass Trio come to perform for us. We are all really looking forward to it! It has made such a difference, thank you.”
The musicians too have benefitted enormously from the chance to play together once more to appreciative live audiences with their industry mostly on pause since March of this year.
“It was so much fun to play live again,” said Lowri Thomas, viola player in the groups String Sisters, Taff Duo and Vesta Trio. “We had cold hands but it was lovely to hear people singing along in the sunshine. We have all been delighted to be playing again after such a difficult year, it has really helped our wellbeing in the run up to Christmas.”
“It has meant a lot to be out and playing together for the first time since March,” added Laura Potter, clarinettist with Seren Winds. “It was cold but we couldn’t have asked for better weather, and to get to perform safely outside for people in care homes and supported living homes as well and see what it meant to them has been a great encouragement.”
Live Music Now Wales will be able to offer outdoor concerts for care homes and sheltered housing, where residents can listen inside through windows or wrapped up outside again during March 2021, and virtual live concerts over Zoom to those shielding or isolated at home or in residential homes from January 2021. For more details or to book please contact [email protected].