Updated 14 September 2020
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When Yehudi Menuhin and Ian Stoutzker created Live Music Now, their vision was to bring live music to people who needed it the most and support young professional musicians at the start of their careers.
Forty-three years later, as the world adapts to the Covid19 pandemic, the need for human connection through music is greater than ever.
Live Music Now sessions are rarely a public affair, they take place behind closed doors in over 250 schools and more than 250 care settings (hospitals, care homes and hospices), reaching over 80,000 children and older people each year. How could our very personalised approach, which depends so much on audience response in real time, translate online?
Live Music Now musicians from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland gathered online earlier this month to discuss the transition to online music session practice…
We reached out to hundreds of our musicians, care homes, schools, academic and sector experts through surveys, phone and video calls to crowdsource a solution.
The care and education sectors told us that live music experiences are needed more than ever.
But we also discovered the barriers to receiving music sessions online were nuanced and varied. They range from poor internet connectivity or lack of equipment/expertise to content-overload that is not curriculum-specific enough to serve their needs. There is no easy one-size-fits-all solution.
Our musicians were overwhelmingly enthusiastic and willing to try a new way of working. They shared their knowledge about platforms, applications and equipment. Some have been successfully live-streaming concerts for years from fully equipped home studios, others were less experienced, but all were keen to get started and continue connecting with their Live Music Now audiences.
With expert input, we have developed new safeguarding procedures and specific practical guidelines, so we can produce music sessions online for people living with dementia, and for children with specific additional needs and disabilities. Our musicians have continued their work through online interactive sessions with our venues and with families at home and are also produce new publicly accessible music videos, all designed carefully for care homes, children with additional needs and people that are socially isolated.
Live interactive sessions in care homes
Some of our established residencies have already moved online. London-based Ensemble Hesperi were in the middle of a 12-week Live Music Now residency in Park Avenue Care Home, Bromley when the Covid-19 lockdown began. Having already built up an excellent rapport with staff and residents, they worked closely with care home staff to deliver the rest of their sessions via Zoom.
London-based musicians Ensemble Hesperi conduct an LMN session with Park Avenue Care Home via zoom.
Other care homes don’t have the bandwidth or resources for live interactive sessions but have asked for pre-recorded bespoke concerts. Live Music Now North West musicians Elfair and Hedi have been visiting Newcross and Horsefair care homes in the West Midlands as part of a Musicians in Residence programme supported by national charity Attend. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, the had to curtail their visits but have been creating bespoke recordings of some of the music from the sessions for the residents to enjoy.
A particularly difficult time for families with disabled children
As reported recently in The Guardian, families with disabled children are a “vulnerable group – not just to the virus itself, but to the social and economic consequences of the pandemic”. Our special school partners have responded enthusiastically to the idea of Live Music Now creating bespoke recorded concerts for pupils and their families to enjoy at home.
Not all schools are able to facilitate online learning and in general, the logistics of communicating with families is a challenge at the moment. However, schools like Kingfisher School in Oldham have jumped at the opportunity to pilot a series of online music sessions for individual pupils led by their Manchester-based Live Music Now musician, Ben Sayah, using the Zoom platform. Parents, carers and siblings will be able to join in the sessions too and have fun creating music with Ben. In the meantime, Ben and other musicians in residence have been recording the students’ favourite songs – the school has been sending them to the students at home. Read more about our work with special schools during the Covid-19 pandemic here.
Live Music Now Wales’ Soundtrack project was originally delivered in schools by Live Music Now musicians as a six-week music and mental health course for children and young people, acting as a community intervention for those living with or at risk of mental health challenges providing participants with a range of music related tools for ongoing self-care after the project. Now, with the help of a National Lottery ‘Awards for All’ grant, these resources are going online. The grant includes a number of 1-1 live sessions over Zoom for children and youth at home to work 1:1 with professional LMN musicians over several weeks from their living rooms.
Young children watch a Live Music Now Scotland pre-recorded concert at home
Live Music Now Scotland didn’t miss a beat, launching their #TogetheratHome YouTube series of pre-recorded concerts only a few days after the initial lockdown in the UK. For more information and the latest releases, visit their YouTube and Facebook pages.
In other parts of the world, Live Music Now current and alumni musicians have been equally busy.
LMN Munich launched an online concert series entitled ‘My LMN Video’ on YouTube.
In LMN Salzburg, live music continues with the open-air concerts taking place outside care homes in a special initiative called ‘Open Your Windows’. In Switzerland, Les Concerts du Coeur had their first live concert by Skype in early April, with an accordionist playing for residents of a retirement house.
We know Yehudi Menuhin would be proud of all the Live Music Now musicians working so hard all around the world right now.
Our previous article on Live Music Now’s immediate response to Covid-19 can be found here.